Law panel wants abolition of death penalty with exception in terror cases

Three members of the commission submit dissenting note

GN Bureau | September 1, 2015



The law commission of India has recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country.

See full report here


In its report, submitted to the government by commission chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, the 10-member panel concluded that while death penalty does not serve the goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security.

READ: Beyond life and death

However, three members of the commission including two representing the Ministry of Law and Justice — Law Secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh — submitted dissent notes against the recommendation to abolish death penalty. The third dissent note was given by Law Commission member and former judge Usha Mehra who referred to the rights of “innocent victims”.

 “After many lengthy and detailed deliberations, it is the view of the Law Commission that the administration of death penalty, even within the restrictive environment of ‘rarest of rare’ doctrine, is constitutionally unsustainable. Continued administration of death penalty asks very difficult constitutional questions… these questions relate to the miscarriage of justice, errors, as well as the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in the criminal justice system,” the report stated.

The commission also questioned the mercy petition system, provided for under the Constitution, saying, “The exercise of mercy powers under Articles 72 and 161 have failed in acting as the final safeguard against miscarriage of justice in the imposition of the death sentence.”

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