By Navod Prasannan,

1st year LLB (3 YDC), ILS Law college, Pune


Unlike animals, human beings in the course of time have upgraded their social standards in which they reside and where they can claim to be proud residents of a protective society, where they have a prerogative claim to  basic civic, political, economic and legal rights, where state watches and prevails over crime and they are also the recipients of persistent and unwavering justice, which being stringent ensures that any slight deviation from time-honoured and accepted behaviour by any citizen brings them under the austere eyes of the law which then helps in preserving the fabric of the society and the efficiency of its social network which de facto is one core reason why we (should) have capital punishment as a tool and aid to be used as a  deterrent; it has been universally supported by the great political thinkers like John Locke who propounded his concept of capital punishment containing elements of retributive and utilitarian theory, where he contends that a person forfeits his rights for the commission of even minor crimes and once such rights are forfeited, punishments can be rightly pronounced on them as they have made a breach to the social contract to which they had agreed and the remedy is punishment to the wrong doer which in itself is an endeavour to darn the damage done to the social fabric and by the same raison d'être capital punishment too is justified for the following reasons: (1) from the retributive side, criminals deserve punishment, and, (2) from the utilitarian side, punishment is needed to protect our society by deterring crime through such examples, thus society may punish the criminal in any way it deems necessary which may include taking away his life so as to set an example for other would-be criminals and is further justified for the reason that the acts which are so vile and destructive for society and dignity of the people ,invalidating the right of the perpetrator to membership and even to life, because preciousness of life in a moral community must be so highly honoured that those who do not honour the lives of others make null and void their own right to membership, which is why in a community based on love and ideals when made to face the music of hostility and having to deal with people who have committed brutal acts of terror, violence and murder, face a  dilemma by the way of the set of ideals the community propagates; it cannot imbibe the philosophy of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life"  but would be forced to act for the safety of the members of the community from further destruction and would have to treat the perpetrators who had shown no respect for life to be restrained, permanently if necessary, so that they could not further endanger other members of the community which would leave a sense of satisfaction and happiness to all with whom the wrong has been done or relatives of the victims and to society as such, if he who breaks the law is not punished then he who obeys it is cheated which  can also be rightly corroborated from the utilitarian and retributive perspective of capital punishment , for example as per the utilitarian perspective, capital punishment when pronounced prevents the criminal from repeating his crime or deters crime by discouraging would-be offenders and both of these contribute to a greater balance of happiness in society and according to the retributive notion of  capital punishment criminals deserve punishment, and punishment should be equal to the harm done and for determining what counts as "punishment equal to harm," theorists further distinguish between two types of retributive punishment which are lex talionis where retribution involves punishment in kind and is commonly expressed in the expression "an eye for an eye",  and lex salica, where retribution involves punishment through compensation, and the harm inflicted can be repaired by payment or atonement and historically, so much so that capital punishment is most often associated with lex talionis retribution, with the earliest written statements of capital punishment from the same perspective dating back to the 18th century BCE Babylonian Law of Hammurabi which clearly shows that capital punishment as a deterrent has been in existence from the time when men were considered to be more clear-headed had a fear of god and the variances and number of crimes were countable on the fingers, leaving us to ponder on the issue of the severity of punishment to which must be added the fact that the severity of punishment is very crucial for deterrence and can be appreciated by the statements quoted by criminologist Ernest van den Haag - “A prompt and certain slap on the wrist, helps little” - and Milwaukee Judge Ralph Adam Fine ,- “We keep our hands out of a flame because it hurt the very first time (not the second, fifth or 10th time) we touched the fire” – and it is from this it can be contemplated why I strongly adhere to the doctrine that a criminal who has brutally taken somebody’s life has no natural right to his own life and should be paying with his own life, it is because the value of a life can only be explained by the people who were dependant on that life, and as for thinkers who think that punishment should be more reformative then I contend that capital punishment is reformative, we are reforming, not the hanged individual, but everyone else and by this reformative step individuals will either be deterred or swerved from the thought process of  killing a human being, which can be characterized as the ending of a sentence in any literature, only the author has the privilege to end the sentence, none other is privileged to do, and for he same rationale, one has the privilege to decides one’s life and anyone who willingly snatches and disturbs that privilege loses his own and the state thus by implementing capital punishment on these unruly people is genuinely making an endeavour to paint on the canvas of society the importance of ‘one life one individual has’ and it is valued more than anything else and not that it is implemented to quench anyone’s draconian thirst and to sum up and reinforce my argument I quote a piece of folk wisdom prevalent in the land of Arabia: "Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen."