Capital punishment in India

Capital punishment in India

Capital punishment has been practiced as a method of punishment in criminal law for a long time. Capital punishment in common parlance refers to putting to death a person who is in conflict with law and has committed crimes of such a grave nature that the only way to bring justice is to put him to death. His reformation through prison or counseling is not possible. However the instances of this being awarded have gone down reasonably over the last few decades. The reason for choosing this topic is to look at the economic costs of keeping or abolishing capital punishment. The debate to keep or abolish death penalty is a continuous one which merits significant attention. Through this paper I wish to look at the various economic reasons which have led to the decline in capital punishments. The question of deterrence is also of prime importance. A cost-benefit analysis of death penalty is imperative to look at which essentially refers to a procedure for estimating all costs involved and possible profits to be derived.

Applying this principle to the concept of capital punishment, potential criminals consider the benefits and costs of committing a crime, and if they find the costs to be severe or too high, they will refrain from committing murder. Such an economic benefit of the deterrence would lead society to fewer crimes and reduce protection costs that could have been incurred with crimes. Therefore in order to reduce the number of crimes, death penalty works as deterrence due to its high costs for the perpetrator as compared to being sentenced for life imprisonment. The cost benefit analysis also needs to be looked at from the point of view of the society. The dilemma which the policy makers are presented with is that whether the society benefits by awarding capital punishment to criminals or giving them life imprisonment.

The methods of capital punishment need to be weighed against the costs faced by the government in keeping criminals imprisoned for life. There is an economic argument for speeding up the imposition of the death penalty… the gain in deterrence and reduction in cost are likely to exceed the increase in the very slight probability of executing a factually innocent person. What is more, by allocating more resources to the litigation of capital cases, the error rate could be kept at its present very low level even though delay in execution was reduced. However, even with the existing, excessive, delay, the recent evidence concerning the deterrent effect of capital punishment provides strong support for resisting the abolition movement.

The economic reasoning which is offered in support of death penalty is that it saves lives. The expense passed on to the taxpayers and risk of killing innocent people are often both justified by claims that the death penalty saves lives—it supposedly deters murder and provides the justice that murder victims’ families deserve.

The most significant benefit of the capital punishment is to prevent future criminals from committing murder. The assumption behind the deterrence effect is that potential criminals consider the benefits and costs of committing a crime, and if they find the costs to be severe or too high, they willrefrain from committing murder. Such an economic benefit of the deterrence would lead society to fewer murders and reduce protection costs that could have been incurred with murder.

The theoretical premise underlying the deterrence argument is simple: raise the price of murder for criminals, and you will get less of it. In general, the death penalty raises the price of homicide as long as execution is worse than life imprisonment for most potential murderers. Even if there is a deterrent effect, capital punishment is sufficiently expensive, that it may potentially divert resources away from effective crime prevention strategies. Death penalty ought to be kept which is supported by economic arguments given hereunder. Opportunity cost refers to a benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else.

In the context of people convicted for life or those waiting to face death penalty, the number of work hours which could be used elsewhere are lost. If the death penalty is eliminated, useful employee hours can be directed towards more productive work, such as on structural concerns within the legal system, for instance, modernizing our courts, better equipping our police personnel in training, maintaining better infrastructure in our prisons, or any other project of the state. It has therefore been said that there are important financial aspects to all death penalty cases and proper cost studies do take these opportunity costs into account. If not anything else, these opportunity costs can be directed towards finding ways to improvise our criminal justice system to incorporate effective rehabilitative and reformative elements into it, which may have a far long-standing impact than any purported deterrence arising out of the capital punishment.

Using the economic argument put forth in regard to opportunity cost, death penalty ought to be abolished. Instead, the convicts ought to be engaged in some form of work or employment which will contribute to GDP and also save man power which is lost due to death penalty. The state ought not to kill innocent citizens, but the death penalty carries an inherent and undeniable risk of doing precisely that. Whether through mistakes or abuse of power, innocent people routinely get sent to death row. The fiscal cost of the death penalty pales in comparison to the human cost, but local, state, and federal governments must justify all spending as they struggle with ongoing budgetary shortfalls.

Some dissidents criticize the capital punishment by casting a moral question whether those convicted of violent crime deserve to die than with whether state and federal governments deserve to kill those whom it has imprisoned. The law commission has recommended the abolition of death penalty, except for cases related to war against the state or terrorism.

India has imposed a near-moratorium on capital punishment since the Supreme Court ordered in 1983 that it be used only for the “rarest of rare” cases. In Bacha Singh v/s State of Punjab , it was declared that the death penalty was to be given only in the “rarest of the rare” cases. Similarly, in Mithu v/s State of Punjab, the Court struck down Section 303 which said that it was mandatory to give the death penalty to everyone serving a life sentence. In Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr. (2002), the Court evolved the concept of curative petition. The accused could now appeal against the final judgement of the Supreme Court. These judgements show that India has evolvedin its stance regarding the death penalty. The rigidity of the law has been reducing, and obsolete legislation is being removed. If we look at the demand and supply with relation to capital punishment, on the demand side, variation in crime rates may change the political pressure for executions. Equally on the supply side, it seems plausible that more vigorous deployment of the death penalty might occur at the same time that a government elects to get tough on crime along a range of other dimensions including sentencing, prison conditions, arrests etc.13 In the context of the arguments presented above, I would favor abolishing capital punishment.

The fiscal cost of the death penalty pales in comparison to the human cost. The government should not have the power to take a person’s life. The cost benefit analysis and opportunity cost is greater in my opinion for someone who undergoes life imprisonment as compared to giving him capital punishment.

Author: jageshwar pateriya,
jagran lakecity university/student

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