Former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation D.R. Kaarthikeyan has called for a special session of Parliament to debate whether India should abolish death penalty or retain it.

In a message to the People’s Movement Against Death Penalty (PMADP) headed by the former Supreme Court Judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer, he said the best acceptable and pragmatic solution was for Parliament to take a firm decision unanimously or by an overwhelming majority, reflecting the general mood of the nation.

“A special session of Parliament should be convened, where members should be enabled to express their opinion… the members should be given the freedom to exercise their views by voting on the motion, without being constrained by any party whip,” he said.

Mr. Kaarthikeyan was the chief of the Special Investigation Team that probed the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. In an apparent reference to the delay in decisions on the mercy petitions of convicts facing death penalty, he said: “Astonishingly long delays between sentencing and execution, compounded by a prisoner’s death row syndrome and uncertainty over time of execution could be agonising, resulting in horrible feelings and immense mental anxiety amounting to double punishment….that serves neither retribution nor deterrence, and in fact may result in undermining the majesty of law and courts of justice.” There was an intense debate on the question of retention or abolition of death penalty. Death sentence and execution of murderers had not resulted in reduction of murders, he said.

The former CBI Director also pointed to instances where innocent persons were found guilty and executed due to convictions based on wrong evidence and misconception of the circumstantial evidence.

Mr. Kaarthikeyan said more than half the nations had abolished death sentence. In many countries even though death sentence was on the statute book, in practice no execution had taken place for several years.

In a related development, the PMADP said it was looking at legal options in the backdrop of the former CBI official, V. Thiagarajan’s, statement that he had not recorded verbatim the confessional statement of A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu, one of the three convicts on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi case.

“We intend to bring about a consensus on the issue among major political parties in Tamil Nadu. A petition seeking the release of Perarivalan signed by leaders of the political parties will be sent to the President and Chief Justice of India,” Selvaraj Murugaiyyan, Tamil Nadu convenor of PMADP said.

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