April 15, 2023
“If, through death penalty, we can create fears, though it's against my will, we have to do it. You can't reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. I believe life imprisonment is far worse than the death penalty. Our criminal justice system is fallible.” --- BrainyQuote
Life sentence Vs Death sentence has been a perennial subject of debate over decades and centuries. The subject has again come into focus following a recent Supreme Court comments on the subject which is well articulated by Dhananjay Mahapatra and published in The Times of India on14/4/23 - and excerpted below.
Delay in deciding mercy petitions frustrates death penalty: SC
The Supreme Court on 14/4/23 said prisoners on death row were taking advantage of inordinate delays in deciding mercy petitions to seek commutation of their punishment to life sentence, thereby defeating the purpose of death sentence.
This ruling from a bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar came on a petition filed by Maharashtra government challenging the Bombay HC's decision to commute to life sentence the capital punishment awarded to one Renuka and her sister Seema, who between 1990 and 1996 had kidnapped 13 children and killed nine of them in Kolhapur. The death sentence awarded to them by a Kolhapur court in 2001 was upheld by the HC in 2004 and their appeal was dismissed by the SC in 2006.
Their mercy pleas were rejected by the governor in 2013 and the President in 2014. The delay of over seven years in deciding their mercy pleas was taken as a valid ground by the HC, relying on several judgments of the SC, including the one relating to convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati said considering the gravity of the offence committed by the convicts the HC should have passed an order directing imprisonment for rest of their natural life without any remission.
"If such an order had been passed, it would have been in the fitness of things," she said.
Accepting her argument, the bench said the convicts would spend the rest of their lives behind bars without grant of remission, but disapproved the inordinate delay on part of the President and governors, which in turn is taken advantage of by death row prisoners.
The convicts were to be executed on August 19, 2014, the day they moved the HC.
The HC commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment relying on the 2014 judgment in Shatrughan Chauhan case, in which the SC had said, "We hold that undue long delay in execution of sentence of death will entitle the condemned prisoner to approach this court under Article 32. However, this court will only examine the circumstances surrounding the delay and those that have ensued after the sentence was confirmed by the judicial process.
This court cannot reopen the conclusion already reached but may consider the question of inordinate delay to decide whether the execution of sentence should be carried out or should be altered into imprisonment for life".
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl scroll down a bit). Again, welcome to reason.