• Shreya Goswami



There are no obvious right answers to the empirical and philosophical queries that undergird the death penalty debate. Also, there are no obvious right answers to the trade-offs that must be made while deciding how much of this punishment should be used. Death penalty is the maximum sentence used in punishing those who commit grave offenses and this could be an arguable technique of punishment. The methods of execution are crucifixion, stoning, drowning, impaling, and beheading, but at present execution is formed by fatal gas or injections, electrocution, hanging, or shooting. Capital punishment is a legal infliction of death penalty and since ancient times it has been accustomed to punish a large variety of offenses. Criminals guilty of murder or rape need to be executed because they are a danger to society and ultimately mankind. While some people still argue that one method of execution is just as brutal as the next, many people believe that these criminals deserve only one fate, that is death. This article puts light on both the pros and cons of the death penalty and justifies how cruel, inhuman, and degrading it is by citing the examples of the Canadian and Australian legal system and how they abolished this practice.


Ø Proponents say that it is a cost-effective solution as expenses incurred by the government from imposing the death penalty is cheaper than the costs of life imprisonment without parole. Given the food expenses, health care, and other auxiliary expenses, imprisoning someone for life could be relatively expensive.

Ø Some people take to the "eye for an eye" or "life for life" philosophy and the death penalty simply could be a punishment for crimes committed against the rights to life, freedom, and safety of the victims. The death penalty can provide families of victims with some closure and without it, they might not be sufficed with the justice done. Hence, retribution serves as a necessary part of the punishment. Retribution or retributive justice is a theory of punishment, which can be defined as something done to get back at someone or the act of punishing someone for their actions.

Ø For a human being their life is the most valuable thing and to lose it is like the worst nightmare for them. Death penalty can be set as an example to discourage other individuals from carrying out the worst crimes, following the deterrent theory of punishment which is designed to avoid future crime.

Ø Gradually, the methods of execution have become more humane over the years and the argument that it is cruel and inhumane does not stand valid anymore.


Ø Even though the methods of execution have become more humane, it still stands against basic standards of human dignity as they are compromised or undermined.

Ø In cases where the innocent people are wrongly accused and imprisoned can be released from prison and be compensated, but the ones that are wrongfully executed cannot be rectified. Sadly, their innocence is established after the execution has been administered and no amount of compensation can suffice.

Ø Because of the length and complexity of trials, death penalty is an added cost to the government and taxpayers' money, taking all the practical and legal costs into account. The state spends for two trials, one for the verdict and another for sentencing while keeping the convicted prisoner within maximum security. Hence, death penalty is not cost-effective.

Ø While death penalty is viewed as a kind of retribution, opponents argue that it is a form of revenge. There are strong religious arguments against the death penalty and to avenge a murder is unconstitutional.


In Canada, capital punishment dates back to the country’s earliest history including its period as a French colony and it existed in various forms till 1998. A lot of criminal offenses were punishable by death in the pre-Confederation. Until 1998, murder remained a capital crime, when Canada completely abolished this practice.

The urge to limit or abolish this execution began in 1914. Robert Bickerdike, Member of Parliament, presented a private member’s bill calling for its abolition, still the law remained unchanged despite frequent submissions to the Parliament. However, in 1976, the Commons abolished this practice by a majority of six votes. Capital punishment then remained lawful only under the National Defence Act, which allowed the death penalty for members of the Armed Forces found guilty of cowardice, desertion, unlawful surrender, or spying for the enemy. But in 1998, death penalty was eliminated for military members as well. Thus, Canada became a complete abolitionist country when it came to state executions.

Canada has been actively opposing capital punishment in recent decades and has been refusing extradition requests to the United States unless there are assurances the U.S. prosecutors won’t seek the death penalty. However, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government indicated a reform in this procedure, in late 2007. Then public safety minister Stockwell Day stated Canada would "not actively pursue" the return of Canadians facing the death sentence "who have been tried in a democratic country that supports rule of law."

The “faint hope clause”, under section 745 of the Criminal Code, which originally applied to an offender who served 15 years of a life sentence could apply to the chief justice of the province where he or she was convicted for a reduction of his parole eligibility period. In 2011, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper repealed this clause advocating a "tough-on-crime" approach. The inmates convicted of such sentences must serve at least 25 years in prison before they can apply for parole since 2011, inmates convicted of such sentences must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before they apply for parole. In some cases, murderers can also get longer sentences


Capital punishment had been a part of the legal system of Australia since the British settlement. Back in the colonial era, the state executions would be applied in cases of sheep-stealing, forgery and burglary, as well as murder. According to Ivan Potas and John Walker, more than 1,500 people were hanged between 1820 and 1900. From 1901 to 1967, Australian states carried out the death penalty on 114 occasions. About 80 people were hanged each year throughout Australia. Reflecting on their commitment to universal human rights, Australia believes as a matter of principle that the death penalty has no place in the modern world.

In particular, Australia opposed the death penalty because:

· it is irrevocable, miscarriages of justice cannot be rectified, and no legal system is safe from error;

· it denies any possibility of rehabilitation to the convicted individual;

· there is no convincing evidence that it is a more effective deterrent than long-term or life imprisonment; and

· it is unfair – it is used disproportionately against the poor, people with intellectual or mental disabilities, and minority groups.

By 1985, all jurisdictions in Australia abolished the death penalty. On 2nd October 1990, Australia confirmed at an international level its opposition to the death penalty by ratifying the Second non-mandatory Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the Death Penalty Australia has committed itself to oppose the death penalty, the ICCPR recognizes the right to life as an elementary and non-derogable right.

As a person to the second non-mandatory Protocol, Australia cannot re-introduce the execution. In a region where several of Australia's neighbors still impose the execution, Australia has the chance to acquire a leadership stance on the road towards the universal ending of the execution.


Currently, fifty-eight nations actively practice capital punishment while ninety-six countries have abolished it. There are several convincing arguments against the death penalty. Ultimately, I believe, the foremost compelling argument against the death penalty in total is that we should respect the holiness of human life. Death penalty is vicious. It is not solely about what capital punishment does to those killed, but also what it does to those who do the killing and those in whose name the killing is done. It is bad enough that we are victimized by a crime in our society and we don’t need to victimize it further.


© The People Bookmark | 2020

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Instagram