Friday, February 6, 2015

‘Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional’

The former Supreme Court judge says the death penalty has to go from our statute books.

Last year, former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas created ripples in the judicial system when he said the death penalty to Rajiv Gandhi’s three killers would amount to a judicial murder and sought a review of the judgement that he had pronounced in 1999. His reasoning was the three prisoners had already spent 22 years in prison in the shadow of death and a death penalty would have amounted to a double sentence—life imprisonment, which is for 14 years, and death. In an interview to Anuradha Raman, Justice Thomas says the death penalty has to go from our statute books.

Justice KT Thomas
Why do you want the death penalty abolished now when, as a judge, you had the choice of not awarding it?
I took an oath to interpret the law and this oath had nothing to do with my predilection. I conferred the death penalty in six cases and in all, I was discharging my duty as a judge. But I do feel that death penalty should be abolished. Punishment must be similar to that of a father who punishes his child--with the objective of reforming him. The death sentence is not a deterrent. By giving death you are giving away the chance to improve the prisoner.

So, do you regret awarding death penalty in the six cases?
I was going by the statute books. The question is, how will you rectify a wrong? There is always a five per cent doubt, no matter what evidence is produced and argued upon. That’s the percentage of human error judges have to deal with. How will you ever rectify human errors in cases of death penalty?

What’s your reaction to those who say it is a deterrent?
I did a study in Travancore district in Kerala. Before the death sentence in the law books there were fewer murders. After it was introduced in the 1950s, murders also increased. The death penalty is not a deterrent. It is an untested, unresolved myth and I believe the death penalty is unconstitutional. The gov­ernment has to decide under CrPC provisions whether to keep it or not.

Source: [last accessed 06.02.2015]

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