India votes against UNGA draft resolution on use of death penalty

India has voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the use of death penalty and has said that it goes against the statutory law of the country where an execution is carried out in the “rarest of rare” cases, according to a report by PTI.

The draft resolution was approved with 123 votes in favour, 36 against and 30 abstentions, in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) of the General Assembly Tuesday.

While giving an explanation, first Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said the resolution sought to promote a moratorium on executions with the aim of abolishing death penalty.

“My delegation has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law in India,” she said.

“In India, the death penalty is exercised in ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society. 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,” she said.

The draft resolution had earlier been amended to reaffirm the countries’ sovereign right to develop their own legal system. Singapore had introduced the amendment, on behalf of 34 countries, which India had voted in favor of.

Tripathi said every State has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties and it was in this context that India voted in favour of the amendment but has voted against the resolution as a whole.

Tripathi said the Indian laws have specific provisions for commutation of death penalty in the case of pregnant women and has rulings that prohibited executions of persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, while juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to death under any circumstances.

Death sentences in India must also be confirmed by a superior court and an accused has the right to appeal to a High Court or the Supreme Court, which has adopted guidelines on clemency and the treatment of death row prisoners, she said.

Tripathi said “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” constituted new mitigating factors to be considered by courts in commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment.

She also said the President of India in all cases, and the Governors of States under their respective jurisdictions, have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or, to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of death penalty.

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