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-Divya Singh

On 21st April the President Ram Nath Kovind gave a nod to the ordinance for providing stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The Union Cabinet on Saturday at a Cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsed the ordinance and was sitting tight for the President’s approval. The progressions were cleared by the government amid nationwide anger triggered by the gruesome details of the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ordinance for capital punishment to the rapist

The ordinance i.e. The Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2018, amends Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Indian Evidence Act, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

According to the ordinance, the minimum punishment for rape has now been extended to 10 years and 20 years to a person committing rape on a girl aged below 16. Also minimum punishment of 20 years, rigorous imprisonment and maximum Death penalty/Life Imprisonment for committing rape on a girl aged below 12. It also provides speedy investigation and trial. There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang-rape of a girl below 16 years.

The essential purpose of having criminal laws in any country is the reformation of the offenders and not retaliation, however, it is also the responsibility of the state to protect the interests of the society and also to maintain the society’s faith in its system of justice and capital punishment may be a means to this end.

Debate on capital punishment

The debate on capital punishment is a never ending one. While some are in favor of it, others have given various reasons to abolish it.

Capital punishment has been proved to be a deterrent, as nobody values anything as his or her life, therefore, any system that takes away your life will be an effective deterrent. Whereas some people feel that we need to eradicate the crime not the criminals and capital punishment doesn’t help in removing crime. Some people believe that instead of announcing life imprisonment for the convicts, it is better to kill them. It is said that imprisoning someone is more expensive than executing him. Rather than spending on a person who may again commit a terrifying crime, it is better to put him to death. Many hold the view that it is very barbaric and medieval in nature, and we by living in a civilized society don’t need it anymore. Furthermore, it is the violation of the Article 21 of our constitution which states “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Death penalty deprives people of the opportunity to reform, many feel that with proper guidance and counseling the criminal can be brought back on track. While many are of the view that if a criminal is jailed, he may again commit the same crime after being released from prison. Giving him death penalty would make sure that the society is safe from being attacked by criminals. It seems to be an appropriate punishment for serial killers and for those who continue to commit crimes even after serving imprisonment.

Various researches have been carried out mainly in the USA, which has given mixed evidence regarding the deterrence effect of capital punishment. For instance, the work of Issac Ehelich in 1970 reports strong deterrence, whereas earlier studies do not find such effects. A recent study conducted by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado found that 88% of the nation’s leading criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.

Is it an effective deterrent?

Nowhere has capital punishment been helpful in preventing crimes such as rape or murder. Had it been an effective deterrent, why would there be so much crime? There’s a reason why most of the countries have abolished it. It debilitated the right to life and created a nuisance everywhere it was practiced.

The 2012 Delhi gang-rape, a case that people were currently referring to as a reference in their demand for the death penalty, the blamed were given the death penalty for murder and not rape. There is no proof that either murder or rape was deterred by that move.

‘Deterrence and the Death penalty’ a report which was released in 2012 by the US based National Research Council of the National Academics. They evaluated the research done for the past 30 years on death penalty acting as a deterrent to murder and concluded that death penalty had no impact on deterring or preventing murders.

By the end of 2017, 109 countries have abolished the death penalty as a form of punishment in law for all crimes and 142 countries have abolished it in law and practice. India has been reluctant in abolishing capital punishment and even the people’s consensus is in favor of retaining the same with over 70% of the public voting for continuing the use of it as a means of punishment. However, nothing is more inhumane than taking away the life, after all an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

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