A leading human rights organisation today renewed its call for India to abolish death penalty after it executed 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon, saying there is no evidence that the “cruel” form of punishment acts as a deterrent.
Human Rights Watch said that India should adopt the message of Mahatma Gandhi that an “eye for an eye will make the whole world blind” as the practice of death penalty is “blinding the Indian Justice.”
“So, why does India cling to capital punishment? Perhaps the government is afraid to be seen as soft in the face of horrific terrorist attacks or other crimes like the 2013 gang rape of a student in New Delhi. But the often professed goals for capital punishment u2013 deterrence, reformation, or justice u2013 hardly hold up to scrutiny,” said Jayshree Bajoria, researcher in the Asia Division.
She said there is no conclusive evidence from India to show that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.
“Capital punishment should also be rejected on the simple grounds it is irreversible…Plus, these death sentences are meted out by a criminal justice system known to be abusive, under-resourced, and in urgent need of reform,” she added.
“It is definitely time for India to change. A saying famously attributed to Gandhi is: ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’. India should adopt his message, and end the use of the death penalty for retribution,” she added.
She said Memon’s case highlights another “fundamental flaw” that India lacks any credible process to assess whether an accused is capable of reform.
“More importantly, most Indian prisons lack adequate or effective systems to help the reformation or rehabilitation of prisoners. Those on death row are treated even worse,” she said.
Memon was hanged on his 53rd birthday today after he exhausted all legal options to appeal his conviction in the Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people and injured more than 700 others.