Hang­ing in­tent

The Hindu Business Line - - THINK -

Every con­vict has the right to die in peace and with dig­nity

Last week, the Supreme Court asked the Cen­tre to ex­plain why it shouldn’t ban hang­ing by the neck. The court wanted to know if it’s time we re­placed hang­ing with mod­ern, dig­ni­fied prac­tices. The ob­ser­va­tion was made while hear­ing a pri­vate pe­ti­tion filed by lawyer Rishi Mal­ho­tra, seek­ing a more dig­ni­fied form of death penalty. The Cen­tre has to re­ply within three weeks.

This de­bate is decades old. Hu­man rights ac­tivists have been cam­paign­ing against it for some time now, seek­ing more hu­mane and dig­ni­fied ways to end a life given the ad­vance­ments in sci­ence. The SC bench, headed by Chief Jus­tice Di­pak Misra, dropped enough hints that if need be it would be ready to review its 1984 de­ci­sion en­dors­ing hang­ing as the le­gal method of ex­e­cut­ing the death penalty. Sev­eral stud­ies have pointed out that hang­ing is an painful and bar­baric method. Mal­ho­tra’s pe­ti­tion says that an in­di­vid­ual’s right to life, which the Con­sti­tu­tion proudly up­holds, in­cludes the right to die with dig­nity. And hang­ing by any mea­sure is not the ideal way to let a ci­ti­zen die. It seems the apex court wants the leg­is­la­ture to think of al­ter­na­tives to hang­ing. Even though preva­lent in some 60 coun­tries, not many con­sider it civilised.

The SC, how­ever, doesn’t think meth­ods such as shoot­ing or lethal in­jec­tions are al­ter­na­tives, as was sug­gested in the pe­ti­tion. It said said shoot­ing is a prac­tice au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes pro­mote; and re­search has shown in­jec­tions lead to se­vere suf­fer­ing of about 45 min­utes be­fore an in­di­vid­ual dies. The Modi gov­ern­ment must use the op­por­tu­nity to take a hu­mane ap­proach and seek opin­ion from le­gal ex­perts, doc­tors and rights ac­tivists. Bet­ter, it should use the SC in­ter­ven­tion to for­mu­late favourable public opin­ion to­wards abol­ish­ing the death penalty as a whole. The SC can also play a big role by pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary le­gal and philo­soph­i­cal guid­ance on the is­sue. Get­ting rid of hang­ing could be a great start.

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