Opinion On Capital Punishment - Should It Be Abolished?

Opinion On Capital Punishment - Should It Be Abolished?

Have you ever heard the word 'Capital Punishment' before? 

I assume, only a few of you might have. You may think that Capital punishment means punishment given for wrongdoings related to capital i.e. Money. Perhaps, it's not. In fact, Capital Punishment means punishment given in the form of a death sentence. It has been in practice since the stone age, the only difference is that the procedures have changed. 

Capital punishments are mainly given to those who are guilty of committing crimes that of national and human threats and to those who dare to go against a particular dictator. There used to be mass execution of people who raised voices against their rulers in the past. The system of executions was not so formal back then. The revolts/rebels used to be murdered brutally and violently. Beheading, Mass shootings, Attacking with swords, etc were the major forms of capital punishment of that time.

The earliest established death penalty laws date back to the Eighteenth century BC in the code of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes. The death sentences were mainly carried out by means such as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive and impalement. Later on, in the Tenth century AD, hanging became the usual method of execution in Britain. And by the 1700s, around 222 crimes were punishable by death in Britain including stealing, cutting down a tree, and robbing a rabbit warren. However, from 1823 to 1837, the death penalty was eliminated for over 100 of the 222 crimes punishable by death.  

Recently, it was reported that Saudi Arabia conducted a mass execution of 81 individuals who had been convicted of a wide range of offenses including terrorism-related crimes, murder, armed robbery, and participation in protests and revolts. In addition,  Saudi Arabia has previously carried out two mass executions in recent years as well - 37 individuals in 2019 and 47 individuals in 2016. Beheading was the method that they had used for execution.

In the context of Nepal, capital punishment was abolished by the legal form in 1946 but was later reinstated for murder and terrorism in 1985. Later on, the full abolition of capital punishment by constitutional amendment came into force on 9th November 1991 and imprisonment was adopted as the form of punishment for almost all kinds of crimes. The last execution in Nepal dates back to 1979 and no such cases of capital punishment have been found till now. The prevailing constitution of Nepal (2015) and Article 16 have guaranteed that all citizens have the right to live with dignity and have also prohibited any laws to be made that prescribe the death penalty. 

Related: Nepali Education System And How It's Different From Other Countries

However, in the wake of an increase in the reported incidents of rape, members of the public, activists and lawmakers have been putting forth the demands for new provisions to enact laws that allow for capital punishment against culprits of rape. Back in 2018, in a state assembly meeting of Province 3 that was held in Hetauda, the members of the assembly demanded that death sentences should be leveled against those guilty if rape. Perhaps, there still has not been any news of provisions for capital punishment till now. 

Capital punishment is generally guided by the retributive principle of "an eye for an eye". This certainly means that if a person commits murder then the person shall be sentenced to death. One of the very reasons that many people are in support of capital punishment is the immense increase in heinous crimes especially rape, acid attacks, and murder, which leaves permanent scars on the victims and make their whole life miserable. The majority of people that are in support of capital punishment state that if provisions of capital punishment are made for the guilty, then justice will be served to the victims and the further occurrence of such heinous crimes will decrease. It will give rise to fear among those who are about to commit crimes and may even eave the path of evil. 

Recently, there has been a public disclosure of a girl who was allegedly raped eight years ago. This news has been a burning issue for the last few weeks and depicts how weak and vulnerable our laws are against such heinous crimes. The victim disclosed the information through social media and talked about those events that haunt her every day. Perhaps, the offenders don't even have a slight clue about it since they can no longer be considered human after committing such acts.

In response to the issue, there has been an uprising among the people and they have been conducting protests to arrest and punish the guilty. They have been spreading awareness and raising voices to provide justice to the victim. However, our government being our government, tries to remain silent and acts lately in such cases. Similarly, there was a case of a girl being raped brutally and then later murdered by the culprits. This was such a big issue of that time and the case still remains unsolved where the guilty are still roaming freely. And this is why the people want to welcome the provisions of death sentences without a second thought.

However, the main question here is whether the crime rate will decrease or increase after the provisions of capital punishment.

Will the criminals be afraid to commit crimes or will there be no change at all? 

There have been several reports of an increase in crime rates in countries like the USA, India, and China where the provisions of capital punishment are still intact than in the nations where it is completely abolished. It is assumed that the criminals have simply adjusted to the provisions and act more consciously while committing crimes. Such scenarios can be taken as an example that giving death sentences to the criminals simply doesn't guarantee a decrease in crime rates and provide justice to the victims.

In addition, various NGOs and INGOs around the world have been continuously working to abolish the practice of capital punishment. An analysis of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concluded that, "capital punishment does not deter crime to a greater extent in comparison to the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment". Another popular human rights activist INGO, Amnesty International states, "the death penalty violated the most fundamental human right - the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment carried out in the name of justice".

Furthermore, as per a report by Amnesty International, about 105 countries around the world had abolished the death penalty for all crimes as of September 2017. Remarkably, Nepal was amongst the earliest countries in South Asia to abolish the death penalty practice. As a result, the prevailing constitution of Nepal has explicitly prohibited making laws that prescribe the provisions for capital punishment 

Currently, Nepal follows a reformative approach to punishing the criminals which is vastly different from capital punishment The newly enacted Penal Offence (Punishment Determination and Implementation) Act 2074, has incorporated various new penal provisions such as community service, suspended sentence, reform homes, rehabilitation centers, open prisons, parole, probation, etc. In fact, Section 13 of the act has clearly prescribed that the purpose of punishment should be to deter the offender, rehabilitate the offender, create a sense of remorse in the offender and teach the offender to live with dignity and responsibility. 

Because of such reasons, it's almost impossible to reinstate the provisions for capital punishment. Yet, the public still demands that the heinous criminals should be hanged or special provisions should be made for cases only such as mass shootings, terrorism, brutal murder and murdering of victims after rape. On the other hand, an alternative approach can be taken to punish these criminals. As per this approach, the guilt shouldn't be killed but instead be tortured just like how they did to the victims and made to feel remorse throughout their life.

In conclusion, capital punishment is not the ultimate solution for providing justice to the victim nor a measure to evaluate the criminal offenses. It does have an effective role to some extent but not entirely as well. With the advancement in science and technology, various new methods of capital punishment have been introduced including lethal injections, incineration, gas chamber, electrocution, an overdose of drugs, etc. Following such methods of execution and punishment only give rise to fear among the ordinary people which might result in revolutions to abolish such laws. Therefore, rather than opting for inhumane punishments such as death penalties, more focus should be given to the proper implementation of existing laws, strengthening the investigation ad prosecution process and providing speedy justice.


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