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'Guard against politics over death sentence'

india Updated: Nov 24, 2006 23:16 IST
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In the midst of a raging row over the death sentence of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal, the government on Friday cautioned against "politics" over capital punishment and cited statistics showing only one execution was carried out between 2000 and 2004 when the NDA was in power.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, in his reply to a private member's bill on abolition of capital punishment, recalled that mercy petitions in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were left pending for four years from 2000.

He, however, ruled out the possiblity of abolishing capital punishment which, he said, has been "recognised" in the Constitution.

"... Only thing that we have to guard against is politics (over capital punishment)," Patil told the Lok Sabha as he maintained that the government had been "very very careful in hanging any person".

"We shall have to understand under what circumstances death punishment can be awarded," the Minister said.

He, however, insisted there was nothing wrong in retaining death as a penalty, but maintained its use depends on the nature of the crime.

In this regard, he also referred to "crimes against nation", women and children, as he listed out numerous offences that can be punished with death.

The Minister, who did not name the NDA, read out statistics that showed only one person—Dhananjay of West Bengal—was executed between 2000 and 2004 out of a total of more than 500 death sentences awarded during that period.