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‘Need to ascertain adequacy of existing safeguards against wrong convictions’

The Law Commission has called for a reassessment of the need for the death penalty.

In a consultation paper released on Friday, the Commission said: “At this juncture, an exhaustive study on the subject would be a useful and salutary contribution to the cause of public debate on this issue. Such a study will also provide a definitive research-backed orientation to the lawmakers and judges on this very contentious issue.”

The Commission said the study would have to address queries and concerns of Courts and present an international perspective on the issue.

Intense focus

“In the last decade, death penalty has become a subject of intense focus in the Supreme Court. The apex court on various occasions has wrestled with the disparate application of the law in [the dispensation of] the death penalty and the constitutional-fairness implications of the same. The Court, in some of the cases, has specifically requested the Law Commission to undertake research on this behalf,” the Commission said.

The Commission pointed out that the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts on the ground that the inordinate delay in deciding their mercy pleas constituted a violation of the fundamental rights.

Stating that it was aware of the United Nations resolution of 2007 urging a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty, the panel said that the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentence of 15 convicts on grounds of violation of their fundamental rights due to inordinate delay in hearing their mercy pleas.

India is one of the 59 nations that retain the death penalty.

The Commission said: “Commutation of death sentence as a consequence of violation of their [convicts] fundamental rights begs the question whether the existing power of mercy is an adequate safeguard against erroneous convictions.

Against this backdrop, there is a need to review and ascertain the adequacy of existing safeguards against erroneous convictions.

It is to be noted that, worldwide, over 140 countries have abolished the death penalty and over 20 other countries — though they retain it — have not executed capital sentences in 10 years.”

The Commission has allowed 30 days for the public to submit their responses.


  • ‘In last decade, apex court has grappled with fair application of death penalty’
  • ‘Exhaustive study must provide research-backed orientation for lawmakers’

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