NEW DELHI: In the wake of the debate over the death penalty following the execution of Mumbai attack convict Yakub Memon, the Supreme Court has said capital punishment is not inhuman or barbaric and will not violate the right to life and liberty in heinous crimes.
The observation came on Friday from a three-judge bench which was hearing the appeal from a murder case convict who has been given the death sentence.
Vikram Singh, who had been convicted for abducting and killing a 16-year-old, had challenged his death sentence, arguing that capital punishment is applicable only to terrorists.
The bench of Justices TS Thakur, RK Agrawal and AK Goel said, “A sentence of death in a case of murder may be rare, but if the courts have found it is the only sentence that can be awarded, it is difficult to revisit that question…”
What was important, the top court said, was that the punishment should be should be proportionate to the crime.
“Death penalty in a case of kidnapping or abduction will not qualify to be described as barbaric or inhuman so as to infringe the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the court said.
While death penalty is awarded in the rarest of the rare cases, the last few persons to be executed were people convicted on terror charges – Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case and Ajamal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
But it was Yakub Memon’s execution that not only triggered questions from the civil society about his punishment, but also on the larger debate on death penalty.
Vikram Singh had been arrested for the abduction and murder of school student Abhi Verma in 2005.
He was awarded the death sentence by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court. He had challenged the death sentence given for the crime he was booked under – kidnapping for ransom (Section 364A).
Punishments under the section include death sentence, life imprisonment and a fine.
July 30 was a somber day for India — a day that called into question the application of the death penalty in a country whose criminal justice system is stacked against minorities, the poor and those who do not have the backing of powerful political interests.
On that day, Yakub Memon was executed. The same day last year, Maya Kodnani was released from jail. Just three years ago, Ms. Kodnani was sentenced to prison for 28 years for her role in an attack in Gujarat that left at least 94 people, all Muslims, dead during riots in 2002. She was also, however, a top lieutenant in the Gujarat state government once headed by the current prime minister, Narendra Modi. Mr. Memon had no such political connections. An accountant, he admitted to playing an accessory role in the 1993 bombings in Mumbai, masterminded by his brother “Tiger” Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai underworld boss. The bombings, which took the lives of 257 people and injured some 700 others, were set off in revenge for riots that engulfed the city in December 1992 following the destruction by Hindu militants of the Babri Mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya. More than 1,000 people died in the Mumbai riots, most of them Muslims.
Mr. Memon’s execution has now set off a vigorous debate in India on capital punishment. While more than 1,300 Indians were condemned to die by Indian courts in the decade between 2004 and 2013, only three individuals have been executed. But the sentences reflect huge disparities in the treatment of the accused in the justice system. A study conducted by the National Law University in New Delhi, working with India’s Law Commission, has found that nearly all — 93.5 percent — of those sentenced to death are low-caste Dalits or members of other minorities. Most are poor. Many are illiterate. Few received adequate legal representation.
Such gross injustice should weigh heavily when India’s Supreme Court receives a full report on the death penalty expected from the Law Commission next month. In the meantime, the government should reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty while India works toward joining most of the world in abolishing state-sanctioned killing.
|File photo of a gallows at the Old Central Jail in Bangalore|
According to the Article 21 of The Constitution of India, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Capital punishments have always been a point of contention in the Judiciary, not only in India but also in most developed countries. The state’s authority is both questioned and established after the execution of a capital punishment. India has made its stance clear on the matter in December 2007, when it rejected UN’s plea for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment which was further.
Despite India’s stance on capital punishments, the judiciary saves it for extreme violations of law. According to the Article 21 of The Constitution of India, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Capital punishments have always been a point of contention in the Judiciary, not only in India but also in most developed countries. The state’s authority is both questioned and established after the execution of a capital punishment. India has made its stance clear on the matter in December 2007, when it rejected UN’s plea for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment which was further.
Despite India’s stance on capital punishments, the judiciary saves it for extreme violations of law. In the past 10 years the Indian Judiciary has sentenced 1,303 people to death but only four have been hung till death in this entire decade.
Date of execution: August 14, 2004 (Alipore Central Jail, Kolkata)
Dhananjoy Chaterjee was accused of raping and then murdering a 14 year old girl, Hetal Parekh. Dhananjoy was born in a village 200 kilometres from the main Kolkata city. He left his village to work as a security guard. The victim lived in the same apartment that Dhananjoy was guarding. According to the official verdict, it was proved that he raped the girl and then choked her to death. The judiciary declared the crime as “rarest of rare” because the guard was responsible for the protection of the society and the people living in it. The accused was scheduled to hang on June 25, 2004 but his family filed a mercy plea, which was rejected by the then President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He was finally hanged on his 39th birthday in Alipore Central Jail in Kolkata.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab:
Date of execution: November 21, 2012 (Yerwada Jail, Pune)
Ajmal Kasab was a part of the group that was responsible for the infamous 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. This case was closely followed by the media of our country which was probably the reason why case was expedited. An 11,000 page charge sheet was filed against Kasab which made a strong case against him. He kept changing his statement from time to time and moved up to the Supreme Court pleading for mercy. President Pranab Mukherjee upheld the judgement of capital punishment on the November 5, 2012 and he was hanged to death on November 21, 2012.
Date of execution: February 9, 2013 (Tihar Jail, Delhi)
Afzal Guru was accused of being the master mind behind the attacks on the parliament on December 13, 2001. Five armed terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament which led to the death of 8 security personnel and a gardener. A media person was also shot amidst the attack and succumbed to the injuries later. The case was handed to a special cell of Delhi Police, which was able to track and arrest Afzal by December 15, 2001. He pleaded guilty in front of the media but took back his statement later claiming that he did it due to the pressure induced by the police. A special court was formed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which finally sentenced him to death on December 18, 2002. Due to various pleads and protests the case went on till February 6, 2013, when his plea was rejected by the President Pranab Mukherjee. His execution was a carried out as a secret mission on February 9, 2013.
Date of execution: July 30, 2015 (Central Jail, Nagpur)
Yakub Memon was accused of taking part in sponsoring the 13 blasts that rocked Mumbai in 1993. A charted accountant by profession, it was claimed that he sponsored the bomb blasts that were masterminded by his brother Tiger Memon and underworld mafia Dawood Ibrahim. The blasts claimed the lives of 257 people. Yakub pleaded repeatedly before the apex court claiming that his case was not dealt with in the correct manner. Two subsequent mercy appeals were rejected which ended in an unprecedented all-night court hearing. The court rejected the final appeal at 5a.m. in the morning. Yakub was woken up at 4:00 a.m. and was allowed to take a warm water bath. He read the Quran and offered his Namaz before being hanged before 7am and was declared dead at 7:01 am.