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

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Death Penalty in India

Reflections on the Law Commission Report

The Law Commission of India's 262nd report is the first official document to recommend abolition of death penalty. Its seminal recommendation notwithstanding, the commission's conclusion that divergence in judicial reasoning in the death penalties handed out is cause enough for the abolition of such penalty is too hasty. Further, not applying this recommendation to terror-related offences is fuzzy and unreasoned. If death penalty is no more of a deterrent for terrorism than it is for other crimes, as the commission itself finds, to persist with such a recommendation by using the bogey of "national security" is extremely odd. The report is, however, valuable in creating an intelligent discourse around death penalty in India.

In its 262nd report, “The Death Penalty,” the Law Commission of India has recommended the abolition of death penalty in India for all offences except those related to terrorism. It has done so having delved into numerous sensitive questions associated with the subject. With its well-researched and nuanced analysis, the report makes a well-timed contribution to a simmering debate. It is a valuable addition to the literature on death penalty in India, which, barring a few exceptions, is largely polemical.

The Law Commission’s (henceforth the commission) recommendation to abolish the death penalty is seminal—it marks a paradigm shift in the intellectual discourse surrounding death penalty in India, and is the first time that an official institution has openly advocated its abolition. At the same time, the reasoning underlying the recommendation is curious.

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