The government has said in the Rajya Sabha that it is not in favour of abolishing capital punishment.
“The prevailing circumstances in which we are living does not warrant abolition of death penalty,” junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told the Upper House on Friday.
He was replying to a private member’s resolution moved by D Raja of the CPI for the abolition of capital punishment.
The minister and deputy chairman PJ Kurien suggested to Raja to withdraw his resolution. But Raja did not agree, saying he has taken up the issue as a ”mission and with a missionary zeal”.
The resolution was negated by the House by a voice vote.
On awarding of the death sentence, Rijiju said several factors such as the accused’s socio-economic condition, health, age and sex were considered before awarding such a sentence.
Referring to recommendations made by the Law Commission, Rijiju said it suggested abolishing death sentence except for terrorism and for waging war.
Courts have awarded death penalty to 2,052 individuals between 1998 and 2013, a report released last year said.
However, only four people have been executed since 2000; the last being the hanging of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon in July 2015.
Rijiju explained that there are several provisions, such as Articles 71, 134 and 161, in the Constitution for commuting death sentence, and the Supreme Court has made it clear that capital punishment should be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and as an ‘unavoidable alternative’.
He said there are several remedies available with regard to the death sentence. Even if capital punishment has been awarded by a lower court and has been upheld by a high court, the person can approach the Supreme Court.
“Even if that fails, one can approach the governor and the President of India,” the minister said.
India has its own basis of formulating laws and it has to respect the ‘sentiments of the people’, Rijiju said.
But Raja said: “It is not a question of technicality or legality, but we should look at it philosophically and morally. Now the time has come when India should emphatically say no to capital punishment.”
(with agency inputs)