Parliament must decide

Parliament needs to come up with guidelines regarding capital punishment

India has a new Chief Justice in R.M. Lodha and he, too, has toed the line of his immediate predecessor, P. Sathasivam, in staying a death sentence. The attack against a symbol of state in the Red Fort in Delhi by foreign terrorists and the death of two jawans and a civilian make the case of Mohammad Arif of Pakistan a rare one. However, there are far larger issues involved, including the matter of presidential pardon becoming a political football. The court has passed on the issue to a Constitution Bench. Whether it is the executive’s lethargy, caused by political compulsions, or judicial delays, which are thought to be systemic, India has been dealing with the complicated issue for a very long time even as about 400 death row convicts continue to lead an uncertain existence. While a humanitarian would baulk at the prevalence of capital punishment, new legal concepts, like imprisonment for one’s natural life, are cropping up in international jurisprudence, offering new avenues. The government has been busy in the top court defending the sovereign right of the President to grant pardon even as death row prisoners are being increasingly defended. Considering the enormity of dealing with human lives, it is time Parliament took the issue head-on and came out with legislation spelling out very clear guidelines on capital punishment.

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