Capital punishment has been the subject of vociferous debate in the international arena for some decades now. Capital punishment has existed in almost all societies from the very germination of human civilization. With the application of this retribution sometimes imbalanced against the severity of the offence, the brutality of the method of execution varied, and the social status of the guilty played a vital role in the judicial sentencing.
But as democracy evolved in the west, as feudalism began declining in many cultures, and as the perception of the human rights of the convict gained consideration, humanitarian views toward the most extreme penalty were incorporated into the practice of jurisprudence in many societies over time. Inevitably, crucifixion in ancient Rome dwindled into history, execution as a tool of the Inquisition in Europe faded into a mere part of ecclesiastical tyranny, and death by strangulation as practiced in Tang China ceased to exist.
On March first, Governor Martin O’Malley’s bill to repeal Maryland’s death penalty survived an early test as supporters turned back an amendment that would have allowed executions to continue in some cases. The Maryland Senate paused its debate on the bill that would make Maryland the 18th state in the nation to eliminate the death penalty after advocates of repeal won a key test vote.
Because the US is a democracy with a federal constitution, capital punishment laws are controlled by the individual states. But despite being a union of independent nations, the European Union has abolished the death penalty everywhere except in Belarus. Even in the case of the US, the statistics of executions carried out across the states vary, but there has been a strong postulate from the opponents of this ultimate penalty for a nationwide moratorium. Islamic countries on the on the other hand, never hesitate to execute alleged criminals on charges such as apostasy, heresy and blasphemy in accordance with Sharia’h law, which violates the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948.
In modern times, execution methods differ from country to country. Electrocution, lethal injection and the gas chamber are widely used in US, while shooting is employed in China and hanging is preferred by a long list of countries, including India, Japan and Iraq. Human rights advocates observe that Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran use the most inhumane, cruelest and barbaric methods of execution, including beheading and stoning to death.
Death penalty statistics vary from nation to nation as well, with China leading the world in executions, Saudi Arabia being the capital of the decapitating world and with some countries limiting it to heinous crimes and war criminals.
All that said, nobody can expect autocracies and theocracies to alter their stance on capital punishment, but the law and praxis persisting in two countries, Japan and India, two prominent world democracies, are extremely disquieting. Japan incarcerates convicts in death row and deprives them of rights and facilities available to other prisoners. The condemned are informed of their execution just hours in advance; their identity is not disclosed, and the sentence is carried out when the Diet is not in session so that any possibility of debate is avoided.
Even though the number of convicts executed in India is relatively minimal compared to Japan, the agony and anguish of the Indian convict is no better.
Aside from the legality of the death penalty, execution of a convict in India is a long, time consuming process. According to the Indian Apex Court ruling of 1983, the death penalty should be imposed only in the “rarest of the rare cases, but without defining or explaining which cases are “rarest of the rare,” leaving the decision solely to the discretion of the trial court.