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India, Pakistan pressed to abolish death penalty

[JURIST] A prominent South Asian rights group has urged [press release] India [JURIST news archive] and Pakistan [JURIST news archive] to abolish the death penalty since it is a "violation of the right to life." South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) [advocacy website], headed by former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral [Wikipedia profile], criticized the possibility of irreversible death penalty punishments and observed that South Asian countries which have abolished the death penalty, like Bhutan and Nepal, have been able to uphold both the rule of law and human rights without them. SAHR also pointed out that the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text] advocates for the abolition of the death penalty and requires that the "sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime."

The death penalty has lately figured prominently in Indian debate especially in the wake of recent high-profile terror attacks [JURIST report] and a public inclination towards mercy taken by Indian President Abdul Kalam [official website]. On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court of India [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the power of the president under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution [text] to pardon a person sentenced to death is subject to judicial review in the face of "extraneous consideration[s]" such as caste or religious or political affiliation. That ruling stemmed from the case of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim who received the death penalty for participating in the 2001 attack on India's parliament [BBC report]. Kalam has been pushing for a more liberal and compassionate approach [Indian Express report] to his office's pardon power. In October, he called for a comprehensive debate [Hindu report] in India's parliament on the country's death penalty policy. ANI has more.

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