The death sentence handed to Ankur Panwar has reignited the debate on capital punishment and its effectiveness as a deterrent to other criminals. Senior criminal lawyer Amit Desai says that there is “adequate data around the world” to show that it doesn’t act as a deterrent and a growing consensus on its ineffectiveness means more countries are doing away with it.
“There is a simple question to be considered – is the death penalty a more effective deterrent than incarceration? If it is, the number of offences that carry the death penalty should go down. But as this does not happen, it is apparent that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Though murder invites the death penalty, the number of murders is going up,” Desai said.
Senior advocate Gayatri Singh agreed, saying that capital punishment is more about vengeance than justice. “Are we talking of vengeance or justice? The convict has to be punished and made to repent. Long-term incarceration does that effectively. All convicts must be given a chance to reform,” she said.
Rohini Salian, a former special public prosecutor, said, “The Supreme Court has set guidelines to determine if a case falls in the rarest-of-rare category and there is no room for courts to be emotional. If there is any chance that a convict can be reformed, he or she must be given a chance,” she said.
However, most experts said that certain crimes – such as terrorism and gang rape – do merit capital punishment.
The Acid Survivors’ Foundation India (ASFI) said death is a fitting punishment for acid attacks. “An acid attack is one of the worst forms of violence. It has irreparable effects, even when the victim survives, so why should the convict get any chance at life?” said Pranali Shah of ASFI’s western India chapter.