New Delhi: The debate on capital punishment has warmed up in the world owing to efforts by human rights activists to abolish the ‘inhuman’ practice. However, the Supreme Court on Tuesday made it clear that only the Legislature can abolish the death penalty and not the courts.

The court pointed out that “it is required to award capital punishment in some of the cases or otherwise it would amount to repeal of the capital punishment by the judiciary.”

The bench comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice CK Prasad observed this during a detailed discussion while maintaining the death penalty to Ajit Singh Harnam Singh for brutally killing his wife and children.

Terming it as a heinous crime, the court rejected petition of Ajit, who killed his wife Kanwaljeet, son Amandeep aged 20 years, daughters Neeti, 22 and Tanya, 13 by setting them on fire alive. The Sessions Court and High Court had awarded him the death penalty.

The court said that the Judiciary can make or delete a law from the statute. Citing various judgments, the bench said, “Death penalty will be awarded in rarest of rare cases which mean that it must be given in some of the cases. It does not imply that such a judgment must never be awarded.”

The bench added that the circumstances in which the punishment can be awarded has already been specified by the court. Referring to the 35th Report of the Commission, it mentioned the preventive effect of fear of the death penalty.

The court also discussed on the capital punishment regarding the old law and new law. However, it made it clear that they are neither debating on the legitimacy of the death penalty, nor on the constitutional provisions provided to the President and the Governor.

The court mentioned that the world differs on the law of capital punishment. According to the Amnesty report, 96 countries have abolished death penalty while 34 nations have not awarded such a judgment since a long time. However, it is still in practice in 58 countries.

(JPN/Bureau)