by Rohan Premkumar, New Indian Express

Prominent lawyers and civil society groups have come out in support of the Law CommissionÂ’s recommendation that the death penalty be abolished, except in terror-related cases. However, most also hoped that the Indian parliament goes one step further, and not only adopts the recommendations but also abolishes the death penalty altogether, regardless of the nature of the crimes committed.

Amnesty India, in a statement, said that “The Indian government must heed the findings of a Law Commission report on the unfairness of the death penalty in India and immediately abolish it for all crimes.”

In its submission, the Law Commission said that the death penalty “remains an irreversible punishment in an imperfect, fragile and fallible system… The Commission states that the death penalty does not achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, including deterrence or retribution,” the statement read.

S Balamurugan, the general secretary of the PeopleÂ’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Tamil Nadu, while calling for the total abolition of capital punishment, said that it was proved through various studies that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent for crime.

He also said that the doctrine that the death penalty should be handed down only in the “rarest of rare cases” was highly ambiguous and subject to individual prejudices of the members of the judiciary, for each of whom the meaning of the term may vary greatly.

In Bachan Singh versus the Sate of Punjab Â- the landmark case on the constitutional validity of the death sentence, a bench of judges confirmed the death sentence handed down to Bachan Singh for the murder of three people.

However, while three judges upheld the validity of the death sentence, Justice J Bhagwati, said “I am of the view that section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code in so far as it provides for imposition of death penalty as an alternative to life sentence is ultra vires and void as being violative of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution since it does not provide any legislative guidelines as to when life should be permitted to be extinguished by imposition of death sentence,” he said.

K Santhakumari, President of the Tamil Nadu Federation of Women Lawyers, while welcoming the committeeÂ’s recommendation, said that she has certain reservations as to whether it would work detrimentally when it is applied to criminals who have committed acts of violence against women. She said that the parliament must enact laws which also have a provision for the death penalty to be applied when the crimes committed by a person are grievous in nature, especially against women, as this would prove to be a deterrent.