in Manipur and the United Nations

CSCHR welcomes Indian Supreme Court’s judgement on commutation of 15 death sentences as unconstitutional and urges for judicial review of AFSPA

PRESS RELEASE

Imphal, 25nd January 2014

CSCHR welcomes Indian Supreme Court’s judgement on commutation of 15 death sentences as unconstitutional and urges for judicial review of AFSPA

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN – a coalition of human rights organisations of Manipur – welcomes the far-reaching pronouncement of the Supreme Court on 21st January 2014, commuting the death penalty of 15 convicts to life term on ground of unexplained delay in deciding their mercy plea by the government and mental illness. The death penalty of 13 condemned prisoners has been commuted to life on the ground of inordinate delay on part of President to decide their mercy pleas. The other two convicts were given life sentence on finding that long years on death row had made them mentally ill.

This judgment delivered after the court heard a specific case, went through its merits and demerits and arguments of the parties. The landmark judgement is a reflection of the stature and role of India’s highest court of law. Time has come when the people of India expect a clear stance on the question of death penalty from the guardian of the Constitution and supreme authority for resolving disputes of legal and constitutional in nature.

Article 51 (c) of Indian Constitution clearly stands to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations and we also expect that the democratic Indian state would follow the international opinion and abolish the death penalty completely. The judiciary must take up the cudgel to facilitate the same.

The Indian state has made voluntary pledges and commitments before UN; wherein it proclaimed – “India shall continue to cooperate with United Nations treaty bodies and contribute constructively …”  The justified international opinion on capital punishment affirmed while the United Nations made researches in 1988 and 1996 regarding executions and capital punishments that ‘Research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect then life imprisonment and such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming.

In the multi-layer judiciary of India, there is ample scope to rectify judicial wrong committed by lower layer by the upper one, but in case of capital punishment ordered by a court and subsequently executed, termination of a human life cannot be regained by any judicial rectification. The law cannot take away what it has not given.

We urge the Indian state to see overwhelming international opinion and accede to the Optional Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Such a step would promote a torture-free culture in our society and more humane society for our future generations.

CSCHR urges the apex court of India to take such a progressive interpretation of the right to life to review AFSPA, which 16 years ago upheld its constitutionality, as its continued imposition in certain parts of the country amounts to Government of India abdicating its obligation to protect the right to life of the population inhabiting the “disturbed areas” and imposing a discriminatory and racist de facto death penalty by Indian armed forces without due process of law.

(Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy)

Convenor

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