India is known to take a strong stand for its values in the UN. More often than not its values resonates with the collective goodwill of other nations. When India voted against the draft resolution calling for moratorium on the use of death penalty and became among the only 36 nations voting against the resolution, it came out as a shock to the several human rights activists who have been against capital punishment for being an infringement on human rights. The topic garnered both positive and negative responses.
To look closely into the matter, India wants to recognize each nation’s sovereign rights to determine its legal system and punish criminals according to its laws.
If we were to counter it, let us look at the oppressive legal arrangements of the middle eastern countries. Should they be let off with the legal arrangement that is suitable for only a segment of the population? Should they be let off with cutting the hands of those accused in robbery and giving out 100 lashes or more for being accused of extramarital affair?
If every country is given the free will and the human rights violations are not checked owing to their sovereign rights, these ghastly infringements will not be checked.
Who decides on the severity of such legal systems? But then, India isn’t quite wrong in its stance. Our country has given out death sentences only in the rarest of rare cases. To determine if the accused should be awarded a death sentence, legal proceedings can range from months to years. Even after it has been determined, family members of the accused can petition against it and approach for respite. As per the Supreme Court, only in the exceptional cases of pre-planned, cold-blooded and sordid nature of crime that has shocked the collective conscience of the society, should a death penalty be imposed.
Even though capital punishment is legal in India, there are only few instances of it unlike countries like USA, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and China which have high execution rates.
It is incorrect to say that recognizing the sovereign rights of the country means that its legal arrangement cannot be questioned isn’t correct if we look at countries with failing legal system. Mayank Joshi of the Indian Mission to UN expressed that India already has all the pre-arrangements like the right to fair hearing, presumption of innocence, right to review by a higher court.
To add to the laid out laws, death penalty can be suspended for pregnant women, persons with mental disabilities and juveniles. Our country can easily boast of a strong and fair legal framework despite its flaws and the painfully long trials. With arrangement like our country has, I don’t feel human rights activists should object to the inclusion of death penalty in our legal system. For, if it’s pulled out, chances are that criminals lose the small sense of fear from the law and order arrangement as a result of which, crime rates throughout the country can spike.
However, the question here is not of India, it is of the world. Voting against moratorium on the death penalty makes us a part of, what was fortunately a smaller group of countries which endorse capital punishment and are regular offenders of human rights. It is a difficult choice to make, but it is also a human choice and human choices should trump difficult ones.