Death penalty or capital punishment is the death sentence by a law court as a punishment to a convicted criminal. Crimes that may give rise to a death penalty are called capital crimes. All such crimes were previously punished by severing the criminal’s head from his/her body on a guillotine. Later, other execution methods were used, such as the use of firing squad and hanging till death.Capital punishment has been practiced by most societies and countries in the past. However, in the recent past there has been much debate on the moral legitimacy of death penalty. At present, death penalty is being actively practiced in 58 counties while 97 countries have altogether abolished it. Rest of the countries have either not practiced it for last 10 years or they allow it in exceptional events such as wartime. The United Nation general assembly had adopted non-binding resolutions calling for moratorium on executions in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Some of the most populated countries of the world voted against these resolutions. According to an estimate, 60% of the world’s population lives in countries where death penalty has not been abolished yet.
Since death penalty has attracted a lot of controversy, several articles and books have appeared on this topic. A great number of intellectuals, politicians, lawyers and human rights activists have discussed their views in their death penalty articles or books. As death penalty is a political issue and enjoys staunch support as well as intense opposition, death penalty articles are divided mainly in two camps. Two basic types of articles are:
• Pro-death penalty articles
• Anti-death penalty articles
There is also a third category, where rather than discussing the moral legitimacy of death penalty, a writer discusses the origin, cause and legal aspects of death penalty as well as the methods of execution and how they changed with time.
In some of the famous books and essays, capital punishment has been regarded as fair and equitable. As Agatha Christie puts it, “Too much mercy often results in further crimes which are fatal to victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second”. Supporters of the death penalty regard mercy on criminal as further and official injustice to the victim. Most of the world religions hold the same viewpoint regarding execution.
However, in the opposing camp as well, lot of literary work has appeared in favor of death penalty abolishment. It is often said “society prepares the crime, criminal commits it”. Supporters of abolishment have asked for a humane punishment in lieu of capital punishment and as the figures reveal, they have been successful in abolishing death penalty from several societies. Because of the impact they have made, even the countries which allow capital punishment are becoming increasingly restrained in its use.
Finally, literary work which has hitherto appeared on this topic, including death penalty articles, books, essays and columns, is worth studying as a food for intellect. In particular, articles are popular among law students, politicians and the general public. Today, several hundreds of such articles are available on the internet while fresh essays frequently appear in some of the topmost newspapers.