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India Votes Against UN Resolution on Death Penalty
Nov 27, 2014

India has voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for moratorium on the use of death penalty, saying it fails to recognise each nation's sovereign right to determine its legal system and punish criminals according to its laws. India was among the 36 nations that voted against the resolution, which got 114 votes in favour and 34 abstentions.

The draft resolution on Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty was approved recently in the General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

By the terms of the resolution, the General Assembly would urge Member States to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.

In its explanation of vote, India said, “The resolution seeks to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The resolution fails to recognise the basic principle that each State has the sovereign right to determine its legal system and to punish criminals as per its laws. In India the death penalty is exercised in the rarest of rare cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society. Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent court, the presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for the defence and the right to review by a higher court.

“India reiterated that its laws have specific provisions for suspension of the 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.”

A related draft amendment tabled in the third committee was rejected by a vote of 55 in favour, 85 against, with 22 abstentions. India voted in favour of the amendment.

By that text, the General Assembly would reaffirm the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations.

 


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