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A Tough Road ahead for India

Abolition of the Death Penalty

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The movement against the death penalty in present-day India faces a tremendous challenge in terms of extensive public clamour for swift executions, removal of appeals, and even support for summary executions. With the imminent execution of the four convicts in the Delhi gang rape and murder case against the background of reactions to incidents in Hyderabad, Kathua and Unnao, harsher punishments are receiving tremendous public support, and politicians are only happy to oblige. The Supreme Court has issued administrative orders1 to hear death sentence cases faster amidst misplaced concerns in the public that death row prisoners have too many loopholes in the law to exploit.

Framing the death penalty as a political–legal issue in India is not easy. Located within the wider spectrum of social and state violence in India, the exceptional nature of the cruelty of the death penalty is difficult to establish. The suffering inflicted by the death penalty is the constant and daily uncertainty between life and death for the prisoner and the extremely dehumanising experience that one’s life is completely at the mercy of another human being. We live in a society where loss of life has been normalised and life as such is not attached with any real kind of sanctity. Routine loss of life in different contexts—hunger, extreme weather, agrarian crisis, violence on the grounds of caste, gender, religion, sexuality, language, and region, the ever-increasing validation of street justice and lynchings, summary executions and illegal encounters by the state—have led to the significant erosion of the value we place on the sanctity of life. In the context of such erosion, getting moral, social, political and legal purchase on concerns around the death penalty is undoubtedly difficult.

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Updated On : 11th Mar, 2020

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