9.1. ETHICS OF DEATH PENALTY
Death penalty is the practice of executing someone as punishment for a specific crime after a proper legal trial
and can only be used by a state.
Ethical issues involved
Matter of Justice - Justice demands that courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime. Any unfair application of the death penalty should not become the basis for abolishing it. At the same time, death penalty is seen rather as retributive form of justice which some consider as immoral because the death penalty delivers a 'double punishment'; that of the execution and the preceding wait and this is a mismatch to the crime.
Deterrence as a concept – Death penalty acts as a catalyst to promote the law and the fear of law which acts as a deterrent to future offenders. The statistical evidence doesn't confirm that deterrence works (but it doesn't
show that deterrence doesn't work either). Also, even if capital punishment did act as a deterrent, there are concerns raised as to whether it would be acceptable for someone to pay for the predicted future crimes of others.
Community acceptance - The very humanistic edifice is constructed on the foundation of ‘reverence for life’ principle. When a member of the community violates this very principle by killing another member, the society may not feel itself bound by the shackles of this doctrine and therefore does not endorse the humanistic approach reflected in ‘death sentence-in-no-case’ doctrine.
Socialization as a factor - Crimes are as much about social failure as they are about individual responsibility. This is not to suggest the absolute lack of individual agency in the things we do. Our demands for justice have to be tempered by this reality. Society then cannot demand to take the life of an individual when it has contributed to that process and outcome.
Moral obligation to protect human life – This argument works both ways - Convicts threaten safety and welfare of the society. Only by putting convicts to death can society ensure that they do not kill again. Similarly, on the other hand, given the value we place on life, if a less severe alternative to the death penalty exists which would accomplish the same goal (life-imprisonment); we are duty-bound to reject the death penalty in favor of the less severe alternative.
In India, Supreme Court has laid down the scope of exercise of power to award death sentence and carved the
rule of “rarest of the rare cases” to justify the extreme penalty, death, affirming the principle of “life imprisonment” as the rule and death penalty as the exception. It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that India
has not so far abolished capital punishment but used it more judiciously.