Government on Friday said in Rajya Sabha that it is “not in favour” of abolishing the capital punishment considering the “prevailing circumstances” in the country.
“The prevailing circumstances in which we are living does not warrant abolition of death penalty,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said while replying to a private member’s resolution moved by D Raja (CPI) for the abolition of capital punishment in the country.
India has its own basis of formulating laws and it has to respect the “sentiments of the people”, Mr. Rijiju added.
He said there are several provisions in the Constitution such as Articles 71, 134 and 161 for commuting of death sentence and the Supreme Court has made it clear that it should be used in “exceptional circumstances” and as an “unavoidable alternative”.
Enumerating the remedies available regarding death sentence, he said even if capital punishment has been awarded by a lower court and has been upheld by the High Court, the person can approach the Supreme Court.
“Even if that fails, one can approach the Governor and the President of India,” the minister added.
On awarding of the death sentence, he said several factors such as the accused socio-economic condition, health, age and sex are considered before awarding such a sentence.
Referring to recommendation made by the Law Commission, Mr. Rijiju said it suggested abolishing death sentence except for terrorism and for waging war.
The Minister, as well as Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, suggested to Raja to withdraw his resolution, but he did not agree saying he has taken up the issue as a “mission and a missionary zeal”.
Mr. Raja said: “It is not a question of technicality or legality, but we should look at it philosophically and morally. Now the time has come when India should emphatically say no to capital punishment.”
The resolution was negated by the House by voice vote.
Earlier, during the discussion on the resolution, BJP’s Basavaraj Patil said government should amend rules related to capital punishment and until then “death penalty should be stopped”.
However, he said “some kind of fear is needed and the government should do serious thinking in this regard”.
Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (SP) said rules that provide for death penalty for “some crimes” should be changed, arguing that “many crimes are committed due to deprivation”.
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) and A. Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) also favoured abolition of the capital punishment.
T K Rangarajan (CPI(M)) favoured a review of the death penalty by the Law Commission.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said the number of crimes, especially heinous crimes have increased, which suggest that capital punishment has not been able to contain crime.
Supporting abolition of capital punishment, T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK) said about 36 countries including India, China, the US and Indonesia practice the penalty.
However, Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu (Congress) said he is taking the resolution moved by Raja with “cautious deference“.
Referring to the Nirbhaya case, he said it is important to keep in view the gravity of the crime.
Rapolu said that such punishment should be used only in the rarest of the rare cases.