“Capital Punishment is the legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law of the land. Since time immemorial people have been put to death for various forms of wrongdoing. Methods of execution have included such practices as crucifixion, stoning, drowning, burning at the stake, impaling and beheading. Today capital punishment is typically accomplished by lethal gas or injection, electrocution, hanging or shooting”.
In modern world, the death penalty is the most notorious severe practice. Other harsh, physical forms of criminal punishment also referred to as corporal punishment have generally been eliminated in modern times as unsophisticated and unnecessary. In the majority of countries, contemporary methods of punishment, such as imprisonment or fines, no longer involve the infliction of physical pain. Although imprisonment and fines are universally recognized as necessary to control the crime.
The nations of the world are split on the issue of capital punishment. About 80 nations have abolished the death penalty and an almost equal number of nations retain it.
An accepted principle of the society is that every person has an equal right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Within that framework, an argument for capital punishment can be formulated along the following lines; some acts are so vile and destructive for society that they invalidate the right Of the committer even to life. The privilege of living and pursuing the good life in a society is not absolute. It may be negated by behaviour that undermines the nature of a moral community. Living in a society expects that one honours the rightful claims of others. The utter and deliberate denial of life and opportunity to others, forfeits one’s own claim to continue in the society. The preservation of moral community demands that the shattering of the foundation of its existence must be taken with utmost seriousness. The preciousness of life in a moral society must be so highly honoured that those who do not honour the life of others bias their own right to membership ‘null and void’. Those who violate the, rights of others, especially if this is done persistently as a habit must pay the ultimate penalty. This punishment must be inflicted for the sake of maintaining the law in the society. The point of contention is whether capital punishment even in such cases is justified or not?
An ideal society would be made up of citizens devoted to promote a balance between individual self-fulfillment and the advancement of the common good. Social life would be based on mutual love. Everyone would contribute to the best of ability and each would receive in accordance with legitimate claims to available resources.
What action should a community based on this kind of love take against those who commit brutal acts of terror, violence and murder? Taken in negatively, it would govern by the philosophy of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life.” Those who show no respect for other’s life would be restrained permanently, if necessary, so that they could not further pose a threat to endanger the lives of others. But the purpose of confinement would not be vengeance or punishment. Rather an ideal society would find out the reasons and circumstances that had made one to commit a crime and rectify matters, apart from mercy even to those who had shown no mercy. It would work as a treatment by good for evil. The aim of isolation is reconciliation and not revenge. It is ever hoped that even the worst among us can be redeemed so that one’s own potential contribution to others can be realized.
In brief, such are the arguments for and against capital punishment, that one is founded on justice and the nature of moral society, the other rests on love and the nature of an ideal spiritual society. If we stand hack from this description and make an attempt at evaluation, one point is crucial. The love ethic requires a high degree of morals and maturity. It is more suitable for a small, closely-knit society in which all people love each other in depth. Forgiveness and reclamation flourish best where people participate in each other’s lives with love and affection. It becomes an ethic of non-resistance to evil, unqualified pacifism and self-sacrifice where self interest has totally gone by. The non-resisting Jesus on the cross who surrenders his life to save others is the epitome of the highest love and sacrifice. Ethical love means ‘no condition’ and will reach out to others even when they lack merit. But, it will resist encroachment upon its own equal claim to fulfillment and will repel if possible any denial of one’s own right to be fully human in every respect. Against the pacifist, epical love would justify killing in self-defence and killing enemies in a just war when non-lethal alternatives are not available. They are necessary and tragic emergency to stop present and ongoing violence.
Can unconditional love for the others that regards the welfare of the neighbour equal with one’s own, be the ideal expected of the citizens. Surely, that would be to hope for an ‘impossible possibility.’
Nation states are not likely, even occasionally, to become ecstatic in their devotion to each other. Mutual, not even to mention sacrificial, love is hardly the guiding rule of relations between two corporate, nor does either have aspirations in that direction. A workable ethical standard for the state and the nation will appeal to the ideals defined by justice and the requirements of a moral society. To say it otherwise, ethical love expressed as social policy for large, impersonal societies takes the form of justice. What that norm involves for a secular, pluralistic societies which cannot be spelled out here. Within this framework a strong but debatable case can be made for capital -punishment. Pragmatically and politically, of course, one has to work within the framework of justice as defined by the secular society in which they have their citizenship and seek to transform it in the light of their own ideals.
The most compelling arguments against capital punishment can be made on the basis of its actual administration in the society.
Following reasons and arguments are assigned against the infliction of Capital Punishment
1.The possibility of error Sometimes an innocent person might be put to death. Sometimes the capital punishment is inflicted disproportionately on the poor and minorities as our judicial system is not transparent. It depends on witnesses only and that may be false or otherwise.
2.Weakness of the argument for deterrence The claim that the threat of capital punishment reduces violent crime is inconclusive, certainly not proven, extremely difficult to disprove, and morally suspect in any case. Many surveys reflect the weakness of such arguments.
3.The length of stay on death row If there was ever any validity to the deterrence argument, it is negated by the endless appeals, delays, technicalities and retrials that keep persons condemned to death waiting for execution for years. One of the strongest arguments right now against capital punishment is that we are too incompetent to carry it out and that becomes another injustice.
4. Mitigating circumstancesPersons who commit vicious crimes have often suffered from neglect, emotional trauma, violence, cruelty, abandonment, lack of love, and a host of destructive social conditions. These extenuating circumstances may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrongdoing.
In conclusion, the present practice of capital punishment is regarded by many a moral disgrace. The irony is that the societies that have the least right to inflict it are precisely most likely to do so. The compounding irony is that the economic malfunctions and cultural diseases in the society contribute to the violence that makes it necessary to unleash even more repression and brutality against its unruly citizens to preserve order and stave off chaos. The society provides opportunities for all citizens to achieve a good life in a sensible culture, so it is reasonable to believe that the demand for capital punishment will be reduced or eliminated. It points to the shallowness of our dedication to solving the basic problems of poverty, moral decay, meaninglessness and social discord.