International organizations including Amnesty International stand for abolition of death penalty all around the world, no matter what the crime. The advocates of this notion often subscribe to an extended view of natural law which stands as: One man cannot be allowed to take the life of another man. This noble notion stems from the idea that one man condemning another to death is morally wrong and unjustifiable. Such theorists lay heavy stress on the reformative nature of law. They believe that every person has the potential to transform from a lawless murderer to a respectable member of society. They point to the cases wherein an innocent man was penalized with death only to have his innocence proved afterwards.
Although there is truth in the notion that not every person sent to death deserves that fate, we have to consider the impact of the existence of death penalty on offenders. No person would want to do something which would ultimately result in their death. Death penalty, just by being an option deters many offenders from committing the crime in the first place. It is crucial that a citizen links an equal amount of pain to the one he wants to cause others.
About the reformative theory, yes, we have to give credit to the idea that a good number of offenders respond positively to reformation and do transform into law-abiding citizens. However, we have to also consider another faction of offenders who are immune to reformation. There do exist a class of people who are habitual offenders and will not respond well to reformative methods. Such incorrigible criminals are likely to commit more crimes if released into society. To an extent, I believe this is largely due to the fact that they know they shall never be killed, no matter how heinous their crimes are. They understand that the pain they have to face by an order of the court will always be less than what they can cause in society. This is the major drawback to be considered when talking about abolition of death penalty.
The idea that supernatural powers have created man and only those powers can take the life of a man; no man can kill another man is flawed in practical application. Firstly, Law and the State is a greater entity than any single man and can have the power to award death penalty. If we look at it differently, the criminal who commits murder is also causing a gross violation of the natural law that no man should kill another. Hence, the higher entity created by mankind (state and law) should have the power to correct this abuse of natural law.
We already law heavy stress on the concept “Every man is innocent unless proven guilty”. The presumption here is in favour of the accused. The prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt for him to be convicted. This safeguard is put in place to prevent innocent people from being convicted.
Also, death penalty in India is awarded in rarest of rare cases. This is generally so for offenders who have caused major massacre, taking the lives of many people; terrorists. Even then, the accused is given ample opportunity to be heard and the prosecution has to work really hard to prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In conclusion, I believe that although death penalty is really a huge punishment to grant another man, it is necessary in rarest of rare cases. The deterring nature of death penalty is important to preserve peace in society. Hence, our legal system is fair in this regard by keeping open the option of death penalty in the rarest of rare cases.
I intend to write more articles on Law and Morality soon.
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