This article titled ‘A detailed study regarding the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment.’ is written by Thomas Sebastian and Thomas P B and discusses the deterrent effects of capital punishment. In this article, the researchers have tried to undertake an intense and holistic study regarding the deterrent effect of Capital punishment by evaluating the violent crime rate in countries with… Read More »

This article titled ‘A detailed study regarding the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment.’ is written by Thomas Sebastian and Thomas P B and discusses the deterrent effects of capital punishment.

In this article, the researchers have tried to undertake an intense and holistic study regarding the deterrent effect of Capital punishment by evaluating the violent crime rate in countries with top execution rates for the past 15 years and comparing the violent crime rate in countries with capital punishment to countries that abolished capital punishment and violent crime rates in countries before and after abolishing capital punishment.

The researchers also extend the study regarding the criteria used by the court to identify the rarest of the rare cases and also the aftereffect of implementing Capital Punishment in India.

I. Introduction

India follows the Reformative theory of punishment. According to this theory, Crime is considered a disease that can be cured with the help of the reformation process. However, India uses Capital punishment as an exception to this rule. After Independence, more than 57 people had been executed according to official government statistics of India. Capital punishment is used in India in the rarest of rare cases by believing that it deters people from committing crimes and reduces the violent crime rate of the country.

The number of countries which have formally abrogated the death penalty has been steadily increasing since 1991. As of now, 106 countries have abrogated the death penalty, and also 8 countries permit the death penalty for severe crimes only in exceptional circumstances.

Moreover, almost 28 countries have never executed anyone in at least 10 years. 52 countries retain the death penalty by speculating that the death penalty can deter people from committing crimes and also it can reduce the violent crime rate in the country.

Nevertheless, a recent study by Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado, found that 88℅ of the nation’s leading criminologists do not believe that, the death penalty is an effective crime deterrent. “Does execution lower the homicide rate? The view of leading criminologists” published in the journal of criminal law and criminology had come to a similar conclusion. Moreover, India’s Law Commission in its 262nd report expressed that the concept of the death penalty should be abolished for all crimes except the terrorism-related offence.

II. Research Methodology

For the making of this paper, the researchers opted for the traditional Doctrinal research method for the completion of the paper. The author solely depended upon secondary data for collecting information on this topic. Some of the secondary sources referred to are books, articles, journals, websites, and so on.

III. Object of the study

  1. To have a detailed study regarding the situation of Capital punishment in different countries
  2. The main object of this project is to do an intense and holistic study regarding the deterrent effect of Capital punishment by comparing the execution rate and violent crime rate of countries that retained capital punishment and countries that abolished capital punishment.
  3. To evaluate the criteria obtained by the Indian court to identify the rarest of the rare cases
  4. To find out the aftereffects of retaining capital punishment in India

IV. Research questions/ Hypothesis

  1. Does capital punishment have a deterrent effect?
  2. Did capital punishment help in the reduction of violent crime rates in countries?
  3. Is there a criterion to identify the rarest of the rarest case in India?
  4. What are the aftereffects of retaining capital punishment in India?

V. Limitations of the research

  1. The complication in finding the primary source of data
  2. Absents of credible data related to the Crime rate, execution rate, etc. in each country

VI. Deterrent effects of Capital Punishment

There are four important theories of punishment:

  1. Deterrent theory,
  2. preventive theory,
  3. reformative theory, and
  4. retribution theory.

One of the important and widely accepted theories of punishment is the deterrent theory. The idea behind this theory of punishment is to impose the exemplary sentence on the crime doer because this sentence creates fear in the mind of the people that prevent them from wrongdoing.

The highest form of punishment that came under the deterrent theory of punishment is capital punishment, which takes away the life of the wrongdoer. There are almost 52 countries that practice capital punishment and in which, China has had the highest rate of executions for the last 15 years.

Moreover, Iran and Saudi Arabia secure the second position in execution for the past 15 years. [1]But the real question here is any of these countries was able to reduce the violent crime rate in these countries by imposing drastic measures of the death penalty.

So to check the deterrent effect of Capital Punishment, we are going to analyze the violent crime rate in each of these countries that secure the first 5 positions in execution for the last 5 years(1). Compare the violent crime rates in countries with capital punishment and counties without capital punishment(2). Analyze the violent crime rate before and after abolish of the death penalty

1. Violent crime rate in countries with the highest execution rate

Countries With Highest Execution Rate Execution rate in countries Average Violent Crime Rate In These Countries[2]
2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2015-2019
China 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 0.50 -0.65
Iran 251+ 253+ 507+ 567+ 977+ 2.2- 3.4
Saudi Arabia 184 149 146+ 154+ 158+ 0.90-1. 60
Iraq 100+ 52+ 125+ 88+ 26+ 6-20
Egypt 32+ 43+ 35+ 44+ 0.40-0. 70
Pakistan 14+ 60+ 87+ 326 3-5
United States 22 25 23 20 28 4.5-6
Somalia 12+ 24 14 0.00

Table(1)

Data: 1. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL(execution rate). 2. WORLD BANK(Violent crime rate).

From the data’s available from the report of Amnesty International, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan etc. are the top countries that mostly use capital punishment for crimes. Cases of Capital Punishment in China are more than 1000 each year and more than 250 in the case of Iran and 150 in the case of Saudi Arabia.

Reports have suggested that all these countries are using capital punishment for crimes that do not fall under the purview of a serious crime or heinous crime from the viewpoint of a reasonable man. Thus, these countries misuse the provisions of Capital Punishment.

Article 48 of the criminal law of the People’s Republic of China provides that, the death penalty is only applied to criminal elements who commit the most heinous crimes. But there is no precise definition of the word heinous crime in any of the laws and thus, a man who stole 14 cattle and a man who murdered 11 women were both given the death penalty.

Moreover, in China, data regarding the execution is considered state secret[3]. The death penalty in Iran also fails to meet the threshold of the most serious crime and people who have been executed in Iran for the last few years include more than 67 children and some women.[4]

Data shows that countries with the highest execution rate misuse the provision of the death penalty and impose the death penalty for crimes that do not come under the purview of violent or heinous crimes. So even though imposing the death penalty in these countries helped in the reduction of crime that did not come under the purview of serious crime, it didn’t help in the reduction of serious or heinous crime.

Most of the violent crime is done by the states themselves and is not counted when the data regarding the violent crime rate of the countries are measured.

2. Only reduction of non-serious crime

Fear of getting capital punishment only prevents people from committing a non-serious crime and these fears do not affect the criminals who commit heinous crimes. Because most of the violent crimes are committed by people who do not have the basic human emotions like love, guilt, empathy, etc.. that makes them human. They are capable of doing the crimes in the most inhumane way and fear of getting the death penalty does not prevent them from committing that crime. So imposing the death penalty does not help in violent crimes committed by people who do not even have the basic emotions that make them more humane.

3. Violent crime rate in the states with capital punishment and states without capital punishment

Year Murder Rate in the Death Penalty States Murder Rate in the Non-death Penalty States Percentage Difference
2010 4.97 4.03 23%
2011 4.88 4.23 15%
2012 4.98 4.09 22%
2013 4.71 4.09 15%
2014 4.75 3.79 25%
2015 5.17 4.41 17%
2016 5.66 4.71 10%
2017 5.64 4.53 25%
2018 5 34 4.1 30%

Table (2)

DATA TAKEN FROM FBI’S UNIFORM CRIME REPORT[5]

Compare the murder rate in countries with capital punishment and Countries without capital punishment, there is a higher chance of inaccuracy because, the crime rate of countries depends upon a lot of different factors like geography, population, etc.. and considering data’s available from different states of the same country, may help in the reduction of the chance of inaccuracy for an extend.

Analyzing the data’s regarding the Murder rates in the states with death penalties and states without death penalties from 2010 to 2018, the states with the death penalty have the highest murder rate compared to the murder rate in the states without the death penalty.

Moreover, the data’s show that the murder rate of states with the death penalty is more than 30% in 2018 as compared to the murder rate in states without the death penalty. Also, the murder rate in death penalty states increased from 4.97 to 5.34, and the murder rate in states without capital punishment decreased from 4.03 to 4.01

The violent crime rate of a state is also dependent upon many factors. So we can’t say that the violent crime rate of a country is decreasing or increasing because of particular reasons. Even though from the data we can understand that fear of getting death penalty has not helped in the reduction of a noticeable amount of violent crime because states without the death penalty have a lower murder rate than the state with the death penalty and in 2018, states with the death penalty have 30 % more violent crime rate than states without capital punishment.

4. The murder rate in countries before and after the abolition of Capital Punishment

So from this data, we can understand that the existence of the death penalty does not help in the reduction of any violent crime and states with capital punishment has increased violent crime rate.

According to the report of Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, a Washington DC-based organization that promotes human rights and democracy in Iran, Nations that abolished the death penalty tend to see their murder rates decline.

The report assessed the murder rate in eleven countries that have abrogated the death penalty before 10 years and in which ten out of eleven countries encountered a reduction in the murder rate.

Countries were included if they met some criteria.

  1. they had formally abrogated the death penalty at least 10 years ago.
  2. at least one death sentence had been imposed or carried out in the decade before abrogation.

(murder rate data was available from the World Trade Organization.)

The researchers analyzed the murder rate in these countries each year and found out that six of the abrogated countries experienced murder rates below the baseline and 4 countries’ murder rates fall below baseline except for two years. Only one country Georgia encountered an upward trend in murder rate that surpasses the baseline.The countries that met the study’s criteria were Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Poland, Serbia, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Albania.

So abrogation of the death penalty does not affect the violent crime rate in the countries and according to the report, ten counties out of eleven countries show a fall of murder rates below the baseline.

If fear of getting the death penalty deterred anyone from committing a violent crime, abrogation of the death penalty gives them a chance of committing the crime and it also causes an increase in the violent crime rate in these countries.

But instead of increasing the violent crime rate, there is a decrease in the crime rate in ten out of eleven countries that abolished the death penalty and so the death penalty has no deterrent effect.

VII. Rarest of the rare case and Death Penalty in India

In India, life imprisonment is the rule, and the death penalty is an exception to this rule. So, the death penalty is allowed only in the rarest of the rare cases. In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab[6] court upheld the death penalty and introduced the doctrine of rarest of the rare case. Even though there is no precise definition for the rarest of rare cases in the Indian constitution.

However, in Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab,[7]the court laid down certain criteria for identifying the cases that fall under the purview of rarest of the rare cases.

According to the judgment of the Court, in this case, a case becomes rarest of rare, when the crime is committed in a very brutal, ridiculous, and revolting manner, and the motive of the crime doer is cruelty, this case may consider as a rarest of the rare case. But along with these two conditions, the crime must be abhorrent, and the proportion of the crime should be massive.

If the victim of murder is an innocent child or a woman or a public figure, the chances of considering it as rarest of rare case are very high. Even though before opting death penalty, the circumstance and situation of the culprit also consider.[8]

The doctrine of rarest of the rare case is very relevant because it prevents taking away the life of people and misuse of the death penalty. Moreover, it gives the highest punishment to people who commit heinous crimes.

VIII. Suggestions

  1. If a person committed a heinous crime because of his mental illness, treat him other than hanging him to death. As the reason behind the crime is mental illness.
  2. Take reformative measures and if it is possible to change the criminal, do not use the provision of the death penalty.
  3. If a person is sentenced to death, put him in detention for at least 2 years and provide counselling. If this time period can help him to understand the seriousness of his crime and he regrets it, the court may remit his sentence to life imprisonment.
  4. If a person committed a heinous crime and is very dangerous to society, provide capital punishment after confirming that it is not possible to change him.

IX. Conclusion

The violent crime rates in countries with the highest execution rate show that in these countries, the death penalty has a deterrent effect. Even though these countries give the death penalty not only for a very serious crime but also for a crime that is not coming under the purview of a serious crime and there is a violation of basic human rights of citizens by misusing the provision of the death penalty. So major violent crime in these countries is committed by the state itself. So we cannot say that imposing the death penalty helped in the reduction of the violent crime rate in these countries.

Moreover, comparative study regarding violent crime rates in countries with the death penalty and countries without the death penalty and detailed analysis of murder rate in the same countries before and after abolishing the death penalty shows that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.

Countries with the death penalty have more murder crime rates as compared to the murder rate in countries without the death penalty and the census shows that the violent crime rate in countries reduces after abolishing the death penalty.

Even though taking away the life of a person who committed a heinous crime may bring an illusion of justice in the minds of people and prevents the criminal from repeating the crime, the death penalty is always irreversible and there is a higher chance of hanging innocent. So, it is better to use the death penalty in an exceptional situation or rarest of rare case.


References

[1] Amnesty international

Execution Around The World, 11:07, Available Here.

[2] Violent crime rate in countries, 11:13, 2019 World Bank Available Here.

[3] China and the Ab(use) Of Death Penality, Sartaz billing, 11:36, May 24, 2021, Available Here.

[4] Death Penality Violates Fundamental Rights and International Law. Report Shows, 1:21, Oct 8, 2020, Available Here.

[5] Murder Rate of Death Penality States Compared to the Non-Death Penalty States., Death Penalty Information Center, 11:18, Available Here.

[6] Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1980 SC 898

[7] Michhi Singh v. State of Punjab, 1983 SCR(3) 413

[8] The Doctrine of the Rarest of the Rare, Raashi Valshya, 12:07, Available Here.


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Updated On 2021-10-12T12:11:47+05:30
Thomas Sebastian and Thomas PB

Thomas Sebastian and Thomas PB

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