Saket Suman -
One hundred and forty of 195 countries have abolished the death penalty but it still looms large over the world as the nations that have retained it — including India — account for the bulk of the global population, former diplomat and Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi says, urging that the punishment be removed from the statute.
“The world is moving towards the abolition of death penalty... but the countries that have retained this penalty are those which have the largest populations. So, the majority of the world is still under the death penalty,” Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, a former Bengal Governor, said ahead of the formal release of his book, “Abolishing the Death Penalty: Why India Should Say No to Capital Punishment” (Aleph).
“It is curious that the countries that have retained death penalty are those which have a certain punishment mentality. So we are in the company of those countries. What are our compulsions? Why are we retaining it?”
“Some argue that terrorism is the reason. Death penalty does not deter murder. Does death penalty deter terror? We cannot say. But terror has continued. The bizarre thing about terrorism is that the terrorists are prepared to die in the act of terror itself. They are in a craze, in which death is regarded as a martyrdom. So will it deter them?” asked Gandhi, who has served as Secretary to President K R Narayanan and as High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Gandhi’s book asks fundamental questions about the ultimate legal punishment awarded to those accused of major crimes and is set to release on December 7.
“My emphasis is not just on the death penalty but on the entire mentality of punishment, which includes the criminal investigation system where violence is a known fact. Many of those under trial may or may not be innocent, but most of them are subjected to violence. So my book is about the attitude to punishment.
“Human evolution is towards the abolition of death penalty. But the states which have given up on death penalty are also the states which are somewhat reforming their criminal investigation system. In India there has been a lot of reforms — our jails today are not what they were 50 years ago, certainly not what they were in medieval times, when anybody who was taken in prison was bound to be beaten to pulp if not to death — we are not in medieval times, we live in a modern and civilised world,” he added.— IANS