The Bold Voice of J&K

Exploring alternative modes of execution for death penalty

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Adv Shivanshu K Srivastava

The death penalty has been a contentious issue in India for decades, with proponents arguing that it serves as a deterrent to heinous crimes and critics arguing that it violates the fundamental right to life. While Indian law provides for the death penalty as a punishment for certain offences, the method of execution has been a subject of debate in recent years. Firstly, it is important to understand the current methods of execution in India. Currently, the two methods of execution in India are hanging and shooting. Hanging is the most commonly used method, and the execution is carried out in accordance with the jail manual. The condemned prisoner is led to the gallows and made to stand on the trapdoor. The noose is then placed around their neck, and the trapdoor is opened, causing the prisoner to drop and die of asphyxiation. However, there have been instances where this method has resulted in prolonged suffering and even death due to inadequate execution.
On the other hand, shooting is only used in rare cases, and the condemned prisoner is shot by a firing squad. This method is usually reserved for military personnel convicted of offences under the Army Act or other military laws. However, this method is also criticized for being inhumane and violating the right to life. Given the imperfections and shortcomings of the present techniques of carrying out capital punishment, it is prudent to ponder over and examine alternative means of putting the condemned individual to death. One such alternative method is lethal injection, which entails the introduction of a deadly dose of substances into the bloodstream of the offender. This method is presently employed in a number of nations, the United States of America included. The drugs used in this method of execution initiate a sequence of events wherein the prisoner becomes unconscious, eventually leading to a cessation of cardiac activity and, consequently, death. Nonetheless, there exist certain objections to the employment of lethal injection, with some individuals claiming that it inflicts needless suffering and agony upon the offender, thereby rendering it a cruel and inhumane method of execution. It has been noted that certain prisoners may experience discomfort and pain during the process of lethal injection.
Another potential option for carrying out a death sentence is through the use of electrocution. This particular method involves administering a potentially lethal dose of electric shock to the condemned individual. In order to carry out the process, the individual is typically restrained and secured to a specially designed chair, while electrodes are carefully and strategically placed on both their head and legs. Once the electrodes are in place, a significant amount of electric current is passed through the prisoner’s body, ultimately resulting in cardiac arrest and, ultimately, death. While electrocution has been used as a form of capital punishment in the United States in the past, it has also received considerable criticism from many corners due to concerns that it may be unnecessarily inhumane and cause undue suffering to the condemned individual. Nonetheless, it remains one of the potential methods that could be employed in certain circumstances and is a topic of ongoing debate and discussion among legal and medical professionals alike. It is worth noting that the Indian judiciary has also considered the issue of alternative modes of execution. In 2015, the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark judgment in the case of Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, in which it examined the constitutionality of the death penalty and the mode of execution. The Court held that the right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and that the method of execution should not result in unnecessary suffering. The Court also observed that there was a need for a more humane and dignified mode of execution. While it is true that there are various alternative modes of execution for the death penalty, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, it is of paramount importance to give careful consideration to the issue of the humane and dignified implementation of the death penalty. The subject of alternative modes of execution for the death penalty in India is a multifaceted and intricate one, requiring a delicate balance between different factors. The shortcomings of the present methods of execution have already been acknowledged by the Indian judiciary, and it is evident that there is an urgent need for a more civilized and humane mode of implementation. Among the various alternatives that have been proposed for the implementation of the death penalty in India, lethal injection and electrocution are some of the most frequently mentioned options. However, it is imperative that we examine the implications of such alternatives in detail, to ensure that they do not contravene the fundamental right to life or lead to any avoidable anguish or suffering. Ultimately, any decision concerning the mode of execution of the death penalty in India must be taken with utmost caution and sensitivity, and should factor in the legal and ethical implications of the various alternatives. It is important to acknowledge that the issue of the death penalty and its mode of execution is a deeply divisive and emotionally charged one, with valid arguments and perspectives on both sides of the debate. While some argue that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime and a means of justice for victims and their families, others contend that it violates human rights and is prone to errors and biases in its application. Regardless of one’s personal stance on the matter, it is vital that the mode of execution of the death penalty be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the principles of human dignity and compassion. To this end, it is essential that any proposed alternative mode of execution for the death penalty in India undergoes rigorous scrutiny and evaluation, including an assessment of its efficacy, safety, and potential impact on human rights. The decision-making process must involve a range of stakeholders, including legal experts, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and representatives of the affected communities, to ensure that all perspectives are taken into account.
In conclusion, while the issue of alternative modes of execution for the death penalty in India is a complex and sensitive one, it is essential that we continue to explore and evaluate options that are more humane and dignified. Ultimately, any decision regarding the mode of execution of the death penalty in India must be made with the utmost care and consideration of the legal, ethical, and social implications, to ensure that justice is served in a manner that upholds the fundamental principles of human dignity and compassion.
(The author is currently
pursuing LL.M from
Banaras Hindu University).

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