India Court Nixes Mandatory Death Penalty for Drug Offenses

In a decision handed down last Thursday, the Bombay High Court struck down the mandatory death penalty for some drug offenses as unconstitutional. It becomes the first court anywhere in the world to do so, according to the Indian Harm Reduction Network (IHRN), which petitioned the court for the ruling.

The Bombay High Court in Mumbai (Image via Wikimedia.org)
The Bombay High Court is one of 22 regional high courts and has jurisdiction over the states of Maharashtra and Goa. It the equivalent of a US federal court of appeals.

Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act imposed a mandatory death sentence for a second offense of drug trafficking or possession of more than a specified amount of drugs. Now, courts in Maharastra and Goa can still impose the death penalty for those drug offenses, but they are not required to.

The decision came in the case of Ghulam Mohammed Malik, a Kashmiri man sentenced to death by the Special NDPS Court in Mumbai in February. He had been convicted of a second offense of smuggling charas (cannabis resin).

THE IHRN intervened in the case, arguing that the mandatory death sentence did not allow the court to take into consideration individual circumstances or mitigating factors. The IHRN told the high court the mandatory death penalty was arbitrary, excessive and disproportionate to the crime of dealing in drugs.

"The order marks an important advance in drug policy and anti-death penalty campaigns," said Anand Grover, director of the Lawyers Collective, who argued the case for IHRN. "We will examine the decision fully to assess whether striking down the death penalty, as was done by the Supreme Court for Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code, would have been more appropriate."

Across the world, 32 countries impose capital punishment for offenses involving narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Of these, 13 countries (including India until today) prescribe mandatory death sentences for drug crimes. In countries like Iran and China that actually carry out executions, drug offenders constitute the vast majority of those executed. In May last year, the Court of Appeal in Singapore upheld the mandatory death sentence imposed upon a young Malaysian for possession of heroin.

"This is a positive development, which signals that courts have also started to recognize principles of harm reduction and human rights in relation to drugs. It is not utopia, but it is a giant step," said IHRN head Luke Samson.

"The Court has upheld at the domestic level what has been emphasized for years by international human rights bodies -- capital drug laws that take away judicial discretion are a violation of the rule of law," said Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International (formerly the International Harm Reduction Association) and author of The Death Penalty for Drug Offenses: A Violation of International Human Rights Law"India's justice system has affirmed that it is entirely unacceptable for such a penalty to be mandatory. This will set a positive precedent for judicial authorities in the region, which is rife with draconian drug laws."

For more information about the resort to the death penalty for drug offenses and efforts to combat it, visit Harm Reduction International's Death Penalty Project.

Mumbai
India
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your science or show me your bible

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

show me your bible or show me your science

May the torch of freedom burn bight into the next generation

smokingspirit | 14 June, 2011 17:55

  1.) Is it too much for the Christian to ask for the God given right to honor the “power over the plants and animals” granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible? 

2.)Is it too much for the Christian Not to be forced to condemn God and all his creations because some gay conquistadores misinterpreted Gods word? 

3.)Is it too much for the American to ask for the right to the American declaration of independence“God and his natural goodness” there in declared?  

4.) Is it too much for the American Not to be forced by the Talibomb to condem 4 of Americans most infulencial people T.Edison, T. Jefferson, G. Washington, and Henry Ford all illegal Drug users.

Very interesting article. I

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Very interesting, thank you for posting. I definitely agree that this is one giant step in progress, and it's great!

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