The long pending issue of death penalty in India may reach an end soon. Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir on Wednesday said that Law Commission in its 262nd report has recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war. “As Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure are in the concurrent list of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, the report has been circulated to all state governments and union territories for seeking their views,” he said replying a written question.
The Union Minister was actually citing a report submitted by Commission to central government in August, 2015. The commission, headed by justice AP Shah, said that 10-member panel concluded that while death penalty does not serve the penological 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. However, out of the 10 members 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. Along with Malhotra and Singh, former Delhi High Court judge Usha Mehra who referred to the rights of “innocent victims”.
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There has been a sharp spike in death sentences handed out by the lower judiciary in India in recent years. According to a study by Delhi-based National Law University’s Centre on the Death Penalty, 136 people were sentenced to death by sessions courts last year(2016) compared to 70 the previous year (2015). The rights group have been continuously calling for abolition of death sentences. As per the apex court’s recommendations, death sentence can only be awarded only in the “rarest of rare” cases.