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Death penalty: CPI leader Raja moves private member's resolution

By Ians English

New Delhi, July 31: As a debate rages over the hanging of Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, the Rajya Sabha on Friday admitted CPI leader D. Raja's private member's resolution to abolish the death sentence in the country.

A private member's resolution is moved by an individual member and not by the government.

Death penalty: Leader moves resolution

"Snatching away somebody's life for crimes committed is not in consonance with the evolving jurisprudence, which embraces in its scope measures to reform the person and transform psychology in tune with the values of compassion and humanism," the resolution by the Communist Party of India parliamentarian read.

D. Raja's resolution cites a study by the National Law University students indicating that 94 percent of those awarded death sentences for terror-related cases belonged to the Dalit castes or religious minorities.

"The commission of a crime by somebody does not contract the scope to reform him or her; rather an approach to address the hidden faculties for realising human worth is now the accepted proposition in criminal jurisprudence and this is true for all human beings, including those who have been convicted for heinous crimes," it said.

Raja, who has been vocal in opposing death sentences in different cases and was one of the signatories to a plea to the president to consider Memon's mercy petition, said that "eye for an eye cannot be part of the Indian jurisprudence".

"India should say no to capital punishment...till the government and parliament decide upon the death penalty statute, India should put a moratorium on capital punishment," Raja told IANS.

Raja's resolution, meanwhile, said that "committing a crime is more a sociological than a legal problem".

"Research demonstrates the disproportionate use of death penalty against disadvantaged groups. A study by the students of National Law University, Delhi, has shown there are caste and religious biases in the imposition of death penalty in India, indicating that 94 percent persons given death sentences for terror-related cases belonged to the Dalit castes or religious minorities," the CPI leader's resolution said.

The resolution asked the government to reconsider its stand and make necessary amendments to laws to abolish capital punishment and declare a moratorium on all executions till the abolition of capital punishment.

It said the Supreme Court had itself admitted errors and miscarriage of justice due to arbitrary application of death penalty.

"Law Commission Chairman Justice A.P. Shah (retd) also said there is a serious need to re-examine the issue of death penalty since there are several inconsistencies in the system, which led to arbitrariness and discrimination in the imposition of death penalty," Raja added.

Meanwhile, DMK parliamentarian Kanimozhi said on Thursday that she would also move a private member's bill in the Rajya Sabha to abolish death penalty.

The hanging of Yakub Memon on Thursday again stoked the debate on abolishing death penalty in India. At present, death sentence is given in the rarest of rare cases.

Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and 2008 Mumbai terror attack convict and Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab were hanged in India in recent years.


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