United Nations, November 20 (NIA): India has opposed a United Nations General Assembly resolution to ban the death penalty on the grounds that it will impinge on the sovereign right of member countries to determine the nature of punishment for crimes.
“My delegation, therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law,” a counselor at India’s UN Mission Mayank Joshi told IANS on Thursday.
However, the resolution was adopted by the General Assembly’s committee dealing with humanitarian affairs by 115 votes to 38 with 31 abstentions after an acrimonious debate. The debate led to an amendment to recognize the sovereign right of nations to determine their own laws, which virtually nullified it.
But even this did not mollify India, which voted against the amended resolution.
Explaining New Delhi’s position on capital punishment, Joshi said, “In India, the death penalty is exercised in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society.”
In the last 12 years only three executions – all of them of terrorists – have been carried out in the nation of 1.2 billion. Last year Yakub Memon, who financed the 1993 Mumbai bombings, was executed. Muhammad Afzal, convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, was hanged in 2013 and Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, one of the terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack was executed in 2012.
An independent judiciary hears the cases where death penalty can be imposed and appeals are permitted at several levels, Joshi said. Moreover, the Supreme Court has decreed that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” should be considered as mitigating factors in imposing the death penalty, he added.
The amendment about the sovereign right of nations to have their own legal systems was introduced by Singapore. Its delegate said that the original resolution was one-sided and tried to impose the values of one group of countries upon others.
New Zealand, echoing the sentiments of several other countries, said that sovereignty did not absolve nations from complying with international norms of human rights and the death penalty violated it.
The United States also opposed the resolution saying that capital punishment was legal under international law and dealing with it was a domestic matter.
All South Asian countries have capital punishment. In Sri Lanka, capital punishment is awarded but is not carried out.