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Updated: August 2, 2010 00:14 IST

Death penalty has deterrent effect: NHRC chairperson

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NHRC chairperson K.G. Balakrishnan
NHRC chairperson K.G. Balakrishnan

Amid continuing debate over whether death penalty should be abolished in India, NHRC chairperson K.G. Balakrishnan has favoured continuance of the provision which has a “deterrent effect” in a country where various types of crimes are on the rise.

The former Chief Justice of India said capital punishment was awarded in the “rarest of rare” cases and there were adequate safeguards in the law.

Mr. Balakrishnan, while expressing his “personal opinion” and not the view of the NHRC, said the country had not reached the stage where death punishment could be abolished.

“It is not proper for the NHRC to give an opinion on the death sentence. But, if you ask me, I personally feel that the death penalty should continue. It has got a very great deterrent effect on society,” he told PTI in an interview.

When it was pointed out that several countries had abolished it, he said: “In India, different types of crimes are on the increase. The death penalty will have a deterrent effect on the people.”

His comments come amid a debate whether it should be abolished in India.

The remarks also assume significance as the government is still considering whether or not to execute the death penalty awarded to Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

Guru's mercy petition, along with 24 others facing death sentence, is pending with the government.

Human rights groups, including the Amnesty, have been strongly pushing for repealing of the death sentence from the Indian statute.

In India, death sentence was last carried out in 2004 when one Dhananjay Chatterjee was hanged for rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Kolkata.

“If you analyse [the cases], many of those who were given death penalty really deserved it in the cases imposed [on them],” Mr. Balakrishnan said.

On the safeguards, the former Chief Justice said the Supreme Court had “enunciated” a principle that death penalty should be imposed in the “rarest of the rare cases only.”

He said a convict was sentenced, after proper trial, by a lower court. The conviction could be challenged in a High Court and finally in the Supreme Court. Even then, a convict could seek mercy from the President.

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