Capital Punishment or death penalty in the simplest and the most lucid form can be defined as a legally permitted killing of someone as punishment after a thorough and proper legal trial. Whether death penalty should be abolished or not is a long going debate and the recent hanging of Ajmal Kasab, a terrorist involved in attacks on Mumbai in India on 26 November 2008, has kicked off the debate again and on a very fierce note. Though the capital punishment is meant to punish a criminal for his/her crime, it is considered the most barbaric and inhuman way of punishment and should be condemned in the strongest
terms. This essay highlights various reasons for complete abolishment of capital punishment.
Many organizations, individuals and countries have been rooting against Capital Punishment and rightly so. The practice itself is against the basic human rights and hence should be done away with. Continuous and prolonged efforts in last century for the cause have tendered many fruitful results but still much remains to be done to totally abolish the practice. According to Amnesty International, 141 countries have abolished death penalty but still many major countries including India, China, US, Saudi Arabia practice it
(InfoPlease 2007). Though according to the laws in these countries, capital Punishment is handed over for rarest of the rare crimes, the sheer audacity of the practice is worrisome and calls for rethinking and re-evaluation of this crude, cruel and absurd way of punishing criminals.
‘The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ (Amnesty International 2011). The statement rests at the soul of the argument as to why Capital Punishment should be abolished. No Justice can ever be served by killing people. What is shocking to understand is that laws which protect lives of people and common citizens are used as a shield to kill people involved in crimes.
This is indeed a total contradiction and needs to be addressed and fixed. Capital Punishment is against the basic human rights, the right to life and nobody, including state should be involved in violating it. It is nothing but ‘Judicial Murder’ and hence should be considered as unacceptable as the crime of the person facing the trial. In most of the cases it has failed to act as a deterrent and has indeed indirectly pushed up the crime rate. There is no evidence to suggest that crime rate in countries which practice Capital Punishment is lesser than the ones which have totally abolished it. Hence, Capital Punishment practically do nothing good to the society. It indeed reinforces and gives identification to the ‘sorry’ idea of retributive justice, a primitive and medieval concept, which should have no place in today’s civilized and modern world. The concept is against the basic values of democracy which countries like India (World’s largest democracy) and US (World’s Oldest democracy) brag about. Keeping in view the uselessness and futility of the practice, it can be safely said that Capital Punishment should have no place in modern world and its abolishment is imminent and imperative.
Another important reason which forms a strong base for complete eradication and annulment of capital punishment is that it is irrevocable and irreversible. What if the person is innocent? Who would be responsible for his/her death in that case? This is one of the many intriguing questions that the advocates of Capital Punishment fail to answer. This argument holds a special significance as recent developments and advancements like DNA testing have shown and proved previously convicted persons as having been innocent.
‘The last person to have been executed in the UK was, years later, found to be innocent. According to data maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union, between 1973 and 2003, 110 death row inmates in 25 states in the US were found to be innocent and released points out to the embedded inaccuracy of the process. According to the data by Amnesty
International, around 1718 people were executed in 2008 in China, 346 in Iran, 111 in USA, 102 in Saudi Arabia and 36 in Pakistan in the very same year. Even if one percent of the total executions were wrong or inaccurate, it lead to staggering number of innocent deaths.
The data puts a big question mark over the validity and credibility of Judicial processes in these countries. Moreover the fairness of death row process has always been questioned specially in countries like China which are not democratic. Many believe that death penalty is used as a weapon inappropriately against the poor, who do not have enough means and money to afford expensive legal counsel to represent them. At times racial, ethic and religious angels have been associated with the death row process, a big dent into the
morality of the practice. In 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks.” (DeathPenalty, n.d.). Moreover, in most of the countries it is totally up to the
Judge’s discretion if a case falls under the ‘rarest of the rare’ or ‘worse of the worst’ Category, for which Capital Punishment is valid. Huge differences have been found in the opinions of many in the Judicial fraternity as to which cases should fall under this category.
The factor leads to greater inaccuracies and sometimes, Injustice. One of the most important factors which is capable of determining if a person should be subjected to capital punishment is the quality of legal representation he/she receives. While many convicts are not able to afford it due to financial reasons, in some cases the representatives are incapable and incompetent of defending their clients. The points above clearly point to the immorality and logical void that the practice of Capital Punishment pushes mankind
Apart from the various Human Rights aspects related to the inhumane practice of death penalty, there is an Economical aspects which necessitates the total eradication of the practice as soon as possible. Many argue, and rightly so, that the cost of executing a person is far more than to keep him/her in prison or Jail for life. This is a serious waste of taxpayer’s money and burns a hole in state exchequer’s budget.
‘According to the organization, keeping inmates on death row in Florida costs taxpayers $51 million a year
more than holding them for life without parole. North Carolina has put 43 people to death since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution. The eventual cost to taxpayers in Maryland for pursuing capital cases between 1978 and 1999 is estimated to be $186 million for five executions.’ (NYTimes 2009). The exorbitant costs involved in the process of Capital Punishment are nothing but a total waste of Public money which can be used for many better purposes like building schools, hospitals, better roads etc. for the locals. The argument holds special significance in respect of the extremely poor countries like India where such wastage of money is nothing less than bane for the people. The fact again lends credence of the argument against capital punishment. It ranks extremely low on any aspect that it may be weighed on and fails to serve its purpose. Its banishment is the only solution which can rid us of all the bad effects that the practice produces.
The supporters or advocates of Capital Punishment present various arguments and points victim’s families who suffer a lot. The argument is totally baseless and far from reality.
Many of the friends and family members of the victims feel that death penalty can never heal their wounds or relieve them of the immense pain that they suffered. Rather extended, prolonged and costly legal process adds to their agony and frustration. California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is one of the many famous organizations through which families, friends and loves ones of the murder victims oppose death penalty. (DeathPenalty, n.d.).
People in favor of Death penalty often argue that chance of making a mistake in death penalty is extremely low. The very argument is based on the wrong notion. Even if one innocent life is lost to the process or practice of capital punishment, it would lead to grave injustice for the family and friends of the convict. Moreover irreversible nature of such mistakes make them more appalling. There is no room for even an ‘extremely low’ mistake percentage in a judicial purpose specially when it involves a practice of irrevocable nature, such as Capital Punishment.
Capital Punishments often argue that death penalty leads to deterrence, but the facts prove them wrong. There has been no significant improvement in the crime reductions in countries which have been following Capital Punishment. Moreover, countries like China and India are considered unsafe when compared to many countries which have abolished capital punishment. This claim again is low on substance and cannot be vindicated.
There are not many solid or convincing reasons which support death penalty while there are many which score against it.
Capital Punishment should be done away with and the convicts should be educated and rehabilitated to contribute to the society. The barbaric and uncivilized practice should have no place anywhere in this world. It is not the quantum of punishment that is important or helps in serving justice but the certainty that it would be served. Capital Punishment fares low on basic human ethics and values and its condemnation is vital. The concept of retributive justice or the philosophy of ‘An Eye for An Eye’ serves no purpose and can indeed lead to degradation of society and values. Death penalty is odious and inhuman and often propels injustice rather than serving Justice.
Mahatma Gandhi, India’s father of Nation and the man who fought apartheid and injustice through non-violence, once said, ‘I cannot in all conscience agree to anyone being sent to the gallows. God alone can take life because he alone gives it.’ The adage says all about the futility associated to Capital punishment for if we cannot give life to a person, we can and should never deprive of him/her of life. There are many alternatives to Capital Punishments like Life Imprisonment without parole which can serve the justice in the right sense and help us get rid of the phenomenon called Death Penalty.
Amnesty International. ”Abolish The Death Penalty.”
Amnesty International. 2 November 2012. Web. 2011.
< http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty >
DeathPenalty. ”10 reasons to oppose the death penalty.”
Deathpenalty.org. 2 November 2012. Web. n.d.
InfoPlease. ”The Death Penalty Worldwide.”
infoplease. 2 November 2012. Web. 2007.
Nair, Ravi. ”Should Capital Punishment be abolished?”
Times of India. 2 November 2012. Web. 27 June 2004.
NYTimes. ”High Cost Of Death Row”
New York Times. 2 November 2012. Web. 27 Sep. 2009.