The Law Commission of India on 31 August 2015 submitted its report on the Death penalty to the Union Government. The report was submitted by Chairman of Law commission Justice (retd) AP Shah.
In its 272-page draft report, the commission favoured speedy abolition of the death penalty from the statute books of India not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment.
However, the capital punishment should not be abolished in cases where the accused is convicted of involvement in a terror case or waging war against the nation.
It further said that, the administration of death penalty, even within the restrictive environment of ‘rarest of rare doctraine’ was constitutionally unsustainable. Continued administration of death penalty raises constitutional questions related to the miscarriage of justice, errors, as well as the plight of the poor in the criminal justice system.
Main Highlights of the report
• The commission questioned the mercy petition system provided for under the Constitution. The exercise of mercy powers under Articles 72 and 161 of Indian Constitution have failed in acting as the final safeguard against miscarriage of justice in the imposition of the death sentence.
• The report stated that from 26 January 1950 till date, successive Presidents have accepted 306 mercy petitions and rejected 131.
• In focusing on death penalty, as the ultimate measure of justice to victims, the restorative and rehabilitative aspects of justice are lost sight of. Reliance on the death penalty diverts attention from other problems ailing the criminal justice system such as poor investigation and crime prevention.
• It is essential that the state establish effective compensation schemes to rehabilitate victims of crime. At the same time it is also essential that courts use the power granted to them under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to grant appropriate compensation to victims in suitable cases.
• The voices of victims and witnesses are often silenced by threats and other coercive techniques employed by powerful accused persons. Hence, it is essential that a witness protection scheme shall also be established.
• The need for police reforms for better and more effective investigation and prosecution has also been universally felt for some time now and measures regarding the same need to be taken on a priority basis.
The Law Commission of India received a reference from the Supreme Court in Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar verses Maharashtra (2009) and Shankar Kisanrao Khade verses Maharashtra (2013) to study the issue of the death penalty in India.
In recognition of the fact that the death penalty is an issue of a very sensitive nature, the Commission decided to undertake an extensive study on the issue. In May 2014, the Commission invited public comments on the subject by issuing a consultation paper.
The Commission also held a one-day Consultation on The Death Penalty in India on 11 July 2015 in New Delhi. Thereafter, upon extensive deliberations, discussions and in-depth study, the Commission gave shape prepared its report.
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When: 31 August 2015