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29 November, 2011

Moratorium on death penalty: national campaign planned

A people’s convention, held at Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, demanded an immediate moratorium on capital punishment.

Well-known writer Paul Zacharia, who inaugurated the convention, examined the political, social and psychological aspects of capital punishment in a broad historical context. He also dwelt on the issue of crime and punishment in the light of new scientific findings.

The convention was organized by a group which has been campaigning against the death penalty and in favour of the rights of prisoners for several years. Its efforts have been responsible for some liberal measures taken by the Kerala government with regard to prisoners’ rights.

The convention decided to mount a national campaign on the issue of capital punishment.

It is appropriate that the initiative for a national campaign on the issue should originate in Kerala since a part of the state has had the unique historic experience of managing without the death penalty for several years.

The Maharaja of Travancore had abolished the death penalty by a proclamation shortly before India became independent. The death penalty came back to the region with the introduction of the Constitution of India.

Studies have shown that there was no spurt in crime in Travancore during the period when there was no capital punishment. This disproves the widely canvassed argument that the death penalty is necessary as a deterrent against serious crimes.

A film by R.P. Amudan, a Chennai-based film-maker, titled “Thudarum Neethikkolaikal” (Continuing judicial killings) was screened during the convention.

More than 130 countries have abolished the death penalty. Many of them have dropped it from the penal code while some are not taking recourse to it even though the law provides for it.

India, China and the United States are among the countries which are sticking to capital punishment, bucking the worldwide trend. Sixteen of the 50 states of the US have abolished the death penalty but that country still accounts for a large number of judicial killings.

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