ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Albert Camus on Capital Punishment

The Imperturbable Machine

A reading of Albert Camus' refl ections against the death penalty, this article is an intervention in the debate on the legitimacy of capital punishment. With an analysis of Camus' perception of human nature in relation to society and law, the author questions a state apparatus that allows for incidents like the sudden hanging of Ajmal Kasab, and the public demand to pass the death sentence on the rapists in the recent Delhi incident.

For reasons of security, we carry out our justice by ourselves. 
– Albert Camus, “Reflections on the Guillotine”

The countdown to the birth centenary of Albert Camus has begun. Offering Camus the Nobel in 1957, the committee referred to his “clear-sighted earnestness” that illuminated “the problems of human conscience”.1 Incidentally, the same year, Camus had published a long essay titled “Reflections on the Guillotine” (Réflexions Sur la Guillotine) where he fiercely argued against capital punishment. The intellectual debate around the legitimacy of capital punishment has once again gained ground in India after the sudden hanging of the impetuous young man, Ajmal Kasab, who was religiously indoctrinated and materially lured to create mayhem in Mumbai. Also, the recent demand by some sections of the protesting public to pass the death sentence on the rapists in the grim Delhi incident that propelled nationwide outrage has posed a fresh challenge for abolitionists of capital punishment.

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