Eye for an Eye, “Blinded by Revenge”

For many years, the death penalty issue has created controversial debates and even to date the debates still remain unabated. This is because justice has become a relative term and people term incidences that are contrary to their self-will and desires as injustice.[1]  Therefore, with that, the thirst for vengeance is so evident that states find it difficult to ignore;[2]  particularly because of the eye for an eye concept that has been upheld for so many centuries.

However, what people seem to forget is that two wrongs don’t make it right. Yes, the offender needs to be punished, but do we necessarily have to punish the offender by taking his/her own life? What about the rights of the accused, isn’t the law made to give others a second chance to reform and do what is right for their communities? Most of these questions may seem irrelevant to most people because they are so centred on vengeance, that they forget that everyone’s rights matters.  This concept has relatively been one of the top reasons why most countries still remain to retain the death penalty, slowly ignoring the corrosive effect it causes both to the offender and the community.

We have become so blinded by revenge, that we have forgotten our obligations as individuals, government entities, as well as members of a civil society; moreover forgetting the obligations entrusted upon us by International treaties, covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human rights. These international laws were adopted in order to guide states in respecting individual rights and states signatory to such treaties are obligated to adopt these laws within their national Constitutions.

Retaining the death penalty goes far beyond than reducing crime. It causes trauma on the side of the accused, also creates tension between states particularly in situations where another state has abolished the death penalty; and above all, it infringes the most important fundamental rights, which are the rights to life and to liberty.

Therefore, it is important that normative edifices that guard against human rights violations adequately ensure that everyone’s fundamental rights are protected and respected because respecting individual rights and freedoms is the only way to inclusive development.

According to the World Economic Forum of 2015, development is very much possible, when individual rights and freedoms are respected; this also includes the rights of the offenders or the accused. Therefore, this should be a wakeup call to retentionist countries to outlaw death penalty and respect the rights of individuals.  The death penalty should be replaced with alternatives such as life imprisonment so as to reduce the cruelty imposed upon offenders.

To deny them human rights, is to challenge their humanity[3]. With that, I believe that the rights of each individual should be maintained regardless of their status or regardless of the situation they have imposed upon their fellow community members; rights do matter.

[1] K.N Bojosi, ‘Commentary on recent constitutional challenges to the death penalty  in Botswana http://www.biicl.org/files/2292_bojosi_ recent_constitutional_challenges.pdf (2015 September 20)

[2] O.B.Iveren, ‘Justification for and the abolition of capital punishment under human rights la, Nigeria(April 2011)   https://www.unilorin.edu.ng>law  (2015 September 30)

[3] Nelson Mandela quotes




Lesego Gaetwesepe is a law graduate and she is intrinsically passionate about human rights, community building and empowering young people. She is a participant at the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Southern Africa and was also part of the #ageofconsent project. She was also part of a project facilitated by NACA (NATIONAL AIDS COORDINATING AGENCY). Ms Lesego is currently a volunteer at Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project and also represents the organisation at the UNESCO Pan African Youth Network for building a Culture of Peace, and she is also taking up training as an ASFL (African Students for Liberty) Local Coordinator.


Capital Punishment: A Bane or Boon

This article has been written by Divya Sharma. Divya is currently a student in National Law University, Assam.

Yesterday night when you read a judgement in which death penalty was awarded to the accused and the very next day you wake up with a thought like “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Global figures are saying that more than two third (one hundred forty in numbers) of the countries worldwide have abolished capital punishment in law as well as in practice[1]. International trend is increasing towards its complete abolition but India still retains death penalty. What were those reasons which led to this never ending debate which is still recognized by the contemporary writers on this topic? The philosophical, humanitarian and moral arguments for or against the death penalty have remained remarkably unchanged since the beginning of the debate. Also, the question arises that what were those reasons which forced our members of the Constituent Assembly to hold the constitutional validity of the death penalty. So, the contemporary legal issue has become the subject of increased investigation, especially in recent years due to its idea of “an eye for an eye”.

Miscarriage of Justice: Abolitionist’s Perspective

People in favour of abolition equate death penalty with miscarriage of justice. According to them, provision of appealing to the Supreme Court of India is open for the wealthy ones only and the common people who have no source of income and wealth will not be able to avail themselves of it. For them the major concern is miscarriage of justice. If the goal of any punishment is to teach us those things we should not do, then the justice system should more adequately teach the criminality of killing by refusing to partake in it.[2]

Reality is by subjecting one to death penalty we cannot bring back the victim to life. By death sentence, the state portrays the idea of hate revenge and anger, which is not at all the best cure to fill in the gaps. There is a possibility that innocent people may be put to death. It is very much possible in the 21st century that someone can be wrongly hanged. Capital punishment can only be regarded as revenge not justice. On the one side, Government is trying to create a just and fare society and on the very other hand it allows to commit the same crime lawfully in the name of justice.

A Great Deterrence: Retentionist’s Perspective

Retentionists think death penalty as a great deterrent. For them if country wants a crime free society then it has to hold death penalty. There is no other punishment which can replace it. For them the right time has not come yet to abolish death penalty. The arguments of abolitionists that death penalty is not a real deterrent and is ineffective is based on a humanitarian which makes law weak. These ideas of humanitarian and moral grounds can be taken until n unless you are not suffered because of this. Neither the victim nor their related members can be taken their stand in favour of moral and humanitarian grounds to abolish death penalty. In this era, our judiciary has gone to such a level that there is no point to debate on any case of mistake. Day by day, Indian judiciary is touching the sky in providing justice to people. Abolitionists should not discuss about the irreversible nature of the death penalty. In this area we should always think about the victim who has suffered and not about that person’s rights who have violated someone else’s rights. Also, it is not wrong to say that it is much more economical than the other punishments. It removes unwanted people permanently. It cannot be ignored that if there is no punishment of death penalty then there will be a very good chance of increasing repeat offenders. As the present scenario stands, the law for death penalty is that it shall be given only in ‘rarest of rare’ cases. This concept of rarest of reduces the frequency of death penalty sentences.

A Critical Analysis

So, the debate on death penalty is never ending. If the person is victim and has suffered then definitely he will be in favour to retain capital punishment. And the person who has not gone through with such situations will talk about humanitarian and moral grounds. International trend is towards the abolition. But India should not be compared with the other countries. Our social and economic conditions are very much different as compared to that of other countries that have abolished it. The country has the need of this concept of rarest of rare. There are some exceptionally unwanted criminals who demand death penalty. Recently, the two very famous cases named, Mohd. Ajmal Amir Kasab v. State of Maharashtra[3][4] and State v. Mohd. Afzal And Ors.[5][6] .The quick succession of the two executions, as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling with regards to death penalty earlier this year has raised the awareness of controversy surrounding India’s penal system. The verdict of the Delhi rape case was announced recently. The judges awarded death sentence to the four accused and a 3 year imprisonment to the juvenile. This decision has reignited the debate on death penalty. All be given death,” the court said while reading out a portion of the order. So, in some cases this becomes mandatory to award death sentence. Also, the focus should be given to the victim compensation scheme. Victims or their family members have to be given rehabilitation, economic help.

[1] A/mnesty International, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/04/death-penalty-2015-facts-and-figures/

[2] Areti Krishna Kumari, “DEATH PENALTY: NEW DIMENSIONS”, 1st ed. 2007, p. 34

[3] (2012) 9 SCC 1

[4] Convicted of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai gun attack was hung 21st November 2012.

[5] 2003 VIIAD Delhi 1

[6] convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament was executed in February 2013


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