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Life over death

  • Published
    16th Nov, 2023

Context:

As the panel formed for review of recently passed criminal justice code, they ignored to review regarding the abolition of the death penalty and must form the core of any reform in the justice system.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) and Death Penalty

  • Lack of Strong Recommendation: The parliamentary committee examining the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), set to replace the IPC left the matter for the government to consider.
  • Judicial Fallibility: The committee acknowledges concerns about the fallibility of the judicial system, leading to the possibility of an innocent person being wrongly sentenced to death.
  • Contradictions in Sentencing Trends: While the Supreme Court awarded the death penalty to only seven individuals from 2007 to 2022, all death sentences were either set aside or commuted to life in 2023.

Call for Reform

  • Ineffectiveness as a Deterrent: Members dissenting from the committee's report argue that capital punishment has been proven ineffective as a deterrent.
  • Redundancy of Proposed Bills: The dissenting voices underscore the redundancy of the three proposed Bills, asserting that they mirror the existing IPC, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Evidence Act.
  • Socioeconomic Considerations: The dissenting members further emphasize the socioeconomic aspect of death penalty recipients, pointing out that a significant number hail from underprivileged backgrounds.

Recommendations for Reform and Policy Change

  • Default Alternative to Death Sentences: The 'life imprisonment,' defined by the BNS as the term for the remainder of one's natural life, should be the default alternative to death sentences. This recommendation aligns with the dissenting voices urging reconsideration and reform in the justice system.
  • Premature Release and Political Controversy: The case for abolition gains strength with a call to address the trend of seeking premature release of life convicts for political reasons.
  • Substantive Reform: The editorial concludes by proposing the removal of capital punishment from the statute book and the introduction of a rational and universal remission policy.
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