By: Apoorva Mandhani | July 8, 2015
Death Penalty


Former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has advocated for abolition of capital punishment in a response sent to the Law Commission consultation paper on the subject.

Dr. Kalam said that he had been in pain deciding such cases. Capital punishment was one of the most difficult tasks for him as President, he said. A law commission source told DNA, Dr Kalam in his letter said “we all are the creations of God. I am not sure a human system or a human being is competent to take away a life based on artificial and created evidence.”

“As a substantial number of cases have been pending in Rashtrapati Bhavan for many years, it is one inherited task that no President would feel happy about,” he further wrote.

“Of course there was one case where I found that the lift operator (Dhananjoy Chatterjee) had in fact committed the crime of raping and killing the girl without doubt. In that case I affirmed the sentence.” Chatterjee, sentenced to death for raping and murdering a 14—year—old girl in Kolkata in 1990, was hanged on August 14, 2004.

According to Kalam, while courts are hearing the capital punishment cases they should “alert the law—enforcing authorities to intelligently find out the source of sustenance of the individual who is being punished and of his family”. This kind of analysis, he thinks, may lead to the real person and the motive which has led to the crime.

Supreme Court had made a reference to the Law Commission last year. It has now called a day long meet on July 11 on death penalty to conclude the process of consultation. Judges of High Courts and SC, besides eminent persons from academia, politics and international experts have been invited to the day-long discussion. The final report will be submitted to the Supreme Court next month.

Dr. Kalam made reference to his own study that he had undertaken on the issue while he was at Rashtrapati Bhavan, to examine “from a normal citizen’s point of view in terms of the crime, intensity of the crime and the social and financial status of the individuals who were convicted and awarded capital punishment.” “This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias,” the former President said.

His views on capital punishment have also found mention in his book, Turning Points: A Journey through Challenges.

DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, who is also facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, has supported Kalam’s views. She praised the efforts of the panel to review capital punishment.

“I hope that we can abolish this practice altogether at the earliest,” Kanimozhi wrote to the panel submitting a detail response to a questionnaire. She said: “No mode of execution can be acceptable. Any technique used to take away life is nothing short of barbaric, against universal human rights principles and it has no place in the modern society.”

The Consultation paper, which was released in May last year envisaged a systematic study and international perspective on the issue, providing 30 days to provide responses. It sought data from courts throughout the country, prison authorities, as well as qualitative and quantitative research by law schools. Read the paper and LiveLaw story here.