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Jury still out on death penalty

Guwahati, May 2: Should death penalty be abolished? The question is doing the rounds after the Supreme Court commuted Dasís death sentence to life.

New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said the judgment was a step in the right direction for eventual abolition of the death penalty in the country while lawyers and human rights activists here opined that the government should rethink its policy as more and more countries were doing away with the practice.

ďThe Supreme Courtís judgment recognises that life imprisonment remains an equally efficacious form of justice and death penalty is not the only form of justice,Ē ACHR director Suhas Chakma said. A recent report of the ACHR says 1,455 convicts or an average of 132.27 convicts were given death penalty every year between 2001 and 2011 in India.

Nekibur Zaman, a senior lawyer of Gauhati High court, who had helped Dasís family to move the court said, ďI think we should eventually go for the international moratorium against death sentence. Ninety six countries have already singed the UN moratorium and our country, too, should rethink its policy.Ē

Countries like Australia, Cambodia, Portugal and Mexico have done away with death sentence. The state of Connecticut in the US decided to abolish it in 2012.

Another lawyer of Gauhati High court, Bhaskar Dev Konwar, who fought the legal battle against Dasís plea for life imprisonment, said human rights could not be a ďone-way trafficĒ and should be applicable to the victimís family too.

ďMany people are talking against Dasís death penalty citing human rights but have they tried to understand the pain Harakanta Dasís family has gone through since he was beheaded in 1996. No one is even talking about the compensation the victimís family should get,Ē Konwar said.