India on Tuesday voted against a United Nations General Assembly draft resolution on the death penalty as it is against the country’s “statutory law”, PTI reported. Executions are permitted in the “rarest of rare” cases in India.
First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said the resolution sought to promote an embargo on executions with the aim of abolishing the death penalty. The draft resolution asked member countries to respect international standards on the rights of those facing execution, and ensure the punishment is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws. The assembly approved the resolution, with 123 countries voting in favour and 36 against. Thirty countries abstained.
“In India, the death penalty is exercised in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society,” said Tripathi. “Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair trial by an independent court, presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for defence, and the right to review by a higher court.”
Death sentences in India have to be confirmed by a superior court and an accused has the right to appeal to a High Court or the Supreme Court, Tripathi said. There are specific provisions to commute the death penalty of pregnant women, those with intellectual disabilities and juvenile offenders, she added.
The courts also take into account “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life”, which are considered as mitigating factors in commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment, the diplomat told the United Nations. The president of India as well as state governors have the power to grant clemency and suspend, remit or commute the penalty, she added.
Before the draft resolution was passed, Singapore introduced an amendment on behalf of 34 countries, reaffirming their sovereign right to develop their own legal systems. The amendment was approved by a 96 to 73 vote. Fourteen countries abstained. India voted in favour of the amendment.
Singapore criticised the draft resolution’s “one-size-fits-all” approach, contending that it sought to impose a particular vision of the world on others. Every country has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties, said Tripathi.