ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Punishment and Violence

Capital punishment is untenable within a normative frame of non-violence meant to address social violence.


The recent judgment of the Bombay High Court in the Shakti mills gang rape case commuted the death penalty awarded by a lower trial court to the convicts. The “procedure established by law” did not fit the requirements of Section 376E regarding repeat offenders, and hence, the sentence of death penalty—following the earlier pronouncements of the Supreme Court and the reports of the Law Commission of India that imprisonment should be the norm and death penalty only the exception—was reduced to “rigorous imprisonment for life” lasting “for the remainder of their natural life,” while also acknowledging that “public outcry” must not necessarily be the primary consideration in such matters. However, it added that “the convicts shall not be entitled to any remissions including parole and furlough.” In this substitute to the death penalty, it was added that the convicts “do not deserve to assimilate with the society,” and since “death puts an end to the whole concept of repentance, any sufferings and mental agony,” the convicts should sense that with “every day, the rising sun would remind them of the barbaric acts committed by them and the night would lay them with a heavy heart filled with guilt and remorse.”

The wide normative assumptions that are followed and repeated here within the premises of this judgment (and similar ones to this), allow us to move beyond legal empiricism, and see what it portends for society, at large.

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Updated On : 18th Dec, 2021
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