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UN resolution on torture

Topics covered:

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.


UN resolution on torture


What to study?

For prelims: key features of the resolution.

For mains: Why India abstained from voting, concerns, issues and what needs to be done?


Context: India joined ranks with Russia and 42 other nations to abstain from voting on a General Assembly resolution aimed at examining options to end trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture.

The resolution was introduced by Romania.


India’s arguments:

  • Incorporating capital punishment into the scope of this resolution “raises concerns that it may be an attempt to place it on par with torture.” 
  • India has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law 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.



The 193-member UN General Assembly recently adopted the resolution Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards’ by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 20 against, with 44 abstentions. 


What is the resolution all about?

  • The resolution requests the secretary-general to seek the views of member states on the feasibility and possible scope of a range of options to establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of goods used for capital punishment and for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • It asks the secretary-general to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its 2019-20 session.
  • It also requests the secretary-general to establish a group of governmental experts to examine, beginning in 2020, the feasibility and scope of the goods to be included, and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards on the matter.
  • It asks for the transmission of the report of the group of experts to the General Assembly for consideration at its 2020-21 session.


What is capital punishment?

Capital punishment also called as death penalty is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law.


Problems with death penalty:

  • The death penalty is error-ridden. For Instance, Between January 1, 2000 and June 31, 2015, the Supreme Court imposed 60 death sentences. It subsequently admitted that it had erred in 15 of them (25%).
  • The landmark SC judgment in 2009 in the Santosh Bariyar casein which Justice Sinha went to the extent of admitting the undue influence of public opinion in awarding death. The Bariyar verdict pointed to” the danger of capital sentencing becoming a spectacle in the media”.
  • The death penalty unfairly targets the poor and marginalised.


Arguments in favour:

  • The punishment is not arbitrary because, it comes out of a judicial process.
  • It is being implemented in the “rarest of the rare” cases and the fact is during the last 13 years, only four people have been executed.
  • Its constitutionality is upheld, even in liberal democracies like U.S. It is not reflection of uncivilised society.
  • India’s neighbourhood is not peaceful, unlike Scandinavia. India has got troubled borders. Several forces are trying to destabilise the very idea of our Nation from across the Border.
  • The sacredness of life can only be seen to be protected, if those who take it away are proportionately punished.


Way ahead:

Two-thirds of countries in the world has abolished it. India certainly does not need it as it serves no purpose. The evidence is all to the contrary. For deterrence to work, the severity of the punishment has to coexist with the certainty and swiftness of the punishment.


Sources: the Hindu.


Mains Question: Does the death penalty stop crime? Do you think India abolish capital punishment? Critically analyze.