Death penalty, sometimes also known as capital punishment, is the highest form of penalisation that can be handed out by the justice system of a country to those found guilty of heinous crimes. I have intentionally made a reference to the words “justice system” (instead of “judiciary”) in order to bring forth the exact nature of work that is carried out by it, i.e. the provision of justice to those who have been wronged.

Since the partial abolishment of this law by Portugal in 1852, several countries have been quick to abolish what they have found to be, a cruel and inhuman manner of killing people in the name of law. The reasoning behind the systems of such countries was based on the belief that when people are equipped with the right guidance and the promise of a second chance, they often change for the better.

There were multiple annual surveys that were conducted to examine each nation’s stand on capital punishment and their willingness to “play God”. It was seen that there were many countries that still stood their ground and were in favour of capital punishment and its significance in maintaining law and order in a country. Such countries believed that there are times when no other alternative can prove to be sufficient and hence resorting to capital punishment becomes crucial.

On the other hand, a blind eye cannot be turned to those countries that misuse this power and therefore, it becomes crucial to determine whether this form of punishment is right or wrong (keeping in mind it was once designed to help deliver justice more efficiently). Can the wrongs of a few countries deter the rest from what they feel is the right course of action, when dealing with the deliverance of justice?

I write with absolutely no bias and with complete neutrality and I believe that if only there was a way for governments of all the countries to punish in a manner that was more neutral, this entire issue would not arise. As we know, it is fairly difficult to please both, the victim (and his/her relatives) as well as the aggravator (and his/her relatives). In most cases, the victims (and his/her relatives) tend to wish for the highest form of punishment, whereas the accused (and his/her relatives) tend to wish for an acquittal or the lowest form of punishment. This is where the problem lies. This, coupled with an alarming rate of an increase in crimes and their seriousness, only further complicates the issue.

There are instances where some say that the justice system should not have any limitations that pose as hurdles in its path to serving justice. As studies have claimed, this ideology and way of thinking is mainly prevalent in developing countries, not in developed countries. The latter tend to possess the belief that it is simply an unconstitutional and irrational method to execute someone and that taking an individual’s life based on a crime that (as heinous as it may be) – is after all only committed by a human being – is utterly wrong.

The counter argument is that in life imprisonment, even though a criminal may not regain the happier aspects of his life that he had once left behind, he would at least get to live the rest of his life. Thus, if this were the case for a murderer, it would be completely unfair to those individuals who have had the lives of their loved ones taken by a man who has not been punished as severely as he should have been.

Arguably, life in prison is immensely troublesome, physically and psychologically. Several get into fights, few others return with resentment in their hearts and some even go back to the same lifestyle that they were once put behind bars for. Moreover, torturing and tormenting affects prisoners mentally. Then again, there is the risk of prisoners escaping and causing chaos – and this may be far more serious.

Thus, I ask you to ponder over these questions. Is taking a life away from an outlaw truly as cruel and inhuman as slowly torturing the wrongdoer for the rest of his life? Is abolishing capital punishment the only way to keep the misuse of that power in check? In that case, what is the primary way to keep prospective wrongdoers in line? Is deciding to “play God” really wrong, or is it truly the only recourse available?

What would you choose, rationality or morality? Humanity wants to know.


-Isha Prakash, V-I