NEW DELHI: Ninety per cent of the states have supported retaining death penalty in the country, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Friday where a private member’s bill seeking abolition of capital punishment came up for consideration.
Responding to the debate, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the government is examining the issue and is yet to take a final call.
In August 2015, the Law Commission had recommended abolition of death penalties except in cases of terrorism and waging war against India. Since, the matter falls within the concurrent list of the constitution, the centre had sought the opinion of states in October 2015.
After several reminders, 14 states and 5 Union Territories responded.
“90 per cent want to retain death penalty except one state. No society wants to kill a person, but on the other side here are some heinous crimes like Nirbhaya also within the same society,” the minister said.
“The government is seized of the matter and is examining this issue. It may take a view on the report after reaching a broad consensus on this matter,” Mr Reddy said.
Over concerns that in some cases innocent and poor people could be wrongly convicted, the minister told the Members said that the country’s constitution has provided several tiers of steps to safeguard the innocents.
“If a trial court awards capital punishment, then it could be appealed before the High Court and then to the governor of state. If governor also rejects, then he can appeal before the Supreme Court and finally before the President of India,” Mr Reddy said.
He further said: “Death penalty is given only in exceptional and unavoidable situations.”
Citing the Nation Crime Records Bureau, the minister said that capital punishment was given to only one person each in 2012 and 2013 respectively, while it was zero in 2014 and one in 2015.
“The President of India has received 135 mercy petitions, in which 34 was dismissed, 91 were allowed and one file is still pending,” he added.
The minister further said that two days ago, the same House had passed The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which had provisions of death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children.
There is also demand of capital punishments across the country, the minister said, while referring to Nirbhaya
The Abolition of Capital Punishment bill was moved by Congress member Pradeep Tamta, who called for proper investigation and police reforms apart from ensuring time-bound compensation to the victims.