The decision of India’s Supreme Court today to uphold the death sentence for Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the last surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, has reignited the debate in that country over capital punishment. India is just one of several countries where the death penalty remains a legal possibility but a practical rarity. Here are several others:
Death sentences are relatively common in India. While the 1980 case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab laid out a judicial proscription against capital punishment except in the “rarest of the rare cases,” judges have still handed out at least 50 such sentences every year over the past five years, including highs of 100-plus in both 2010 and 2011.
But despite having so many convicts on death row, executions are rare in India. According to the BBC, there have only been two executions in the past 12 years, and most convicts can expect to see their death sentences commuted to life in prison.
And now, growing doubts about the death penalty’s deterrent effect and fair application are fueling sentiment in favor of abolishing the death penalty entirely. In an interview with the Times of India published Aug. 29, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court AP Shah said that
“India should join [other abolitionist] nations as there is enough reason to believe that the legal safeguard
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