Right to life, that life of every human being is very valuable, is a core concept of human civilization. All the major religions and philosophies declared that human life is inviolable. None has any right to take the life of another. If anybody takes the life of another, s/he will be punished with capital punishment. This basic proposition has been accepted by most of the earlier human societies and it has not been questioned until the modern humanitarian movement has taken momentum. Capital punishment is a relevant issue for every human society and it constitutes a “dilemma of hidden human divinity versus hubristic capital punishment.” The concept of a right to life is ...view middle of the document...
The term capital derives from the Latin caput, literally meaning ‘head’ but also a pars pro toto for the whole individual. Capital punishment is, therefore, a penalty for a serious crime, which requires death of the offender either by decapitation (losing one’s head) or otherwise. It is the ultimate corporal punishment constituting the end of all physical functions forever. Prisoners, who are given death penalty, are segregated from other prisoners and kept in some specially separated area of the prison, where they wait for their execution. This separated area is known as “death row” in some places of the world.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica “capital punishment”, also called death penalty, execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense. Capital punishment should be distinguished from extrajudicial executions carried out without due process of law. The term death penalty is sometimes used interchangeably with capital punishment, though imposition of the penalty is not always followed by execution (even when it is upheld on appeal), because of the possibility of commutation to life imprisonment.”
The Columbia Encyclopedia, in its 2008 sixth edition, under the heading titled “Capital Punishment,” offered the following: “Capital punishment: Imposition of a penalty of death by the state. Capital punishment was widely applied in ancient times; it can be found (c.1750 BC) in the Code of Hammurabi. From the fall of Rome to the beginnings of the modern era, capital punishment was practiced throughout Western Europe…”
Historical Background of Capital Punishment
Capital punishment is the lawful infliction of death as a punishment and since ancient times it has been used for a wide variety of offences. The bible prescribes death for murder and many other crimes, including kidnapping and witchcraft. By 1500 in England, only major felonies carried the death penalty- treason, murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson by 1700, however, parliament had enacted many new capital offences, and hundreds of persons were being put to death each year. Reform of the death penalty began in Europe by the 1750s, and was championed by academics such as the Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria, the French philosopher Voltaire, and the English law reformers Jeremy Bentham and Samuel Romilly. They argued that the death penalty was needlessly cruel, overrated as a deterrent, and occasionally imposed in fatal error. Along with Quaker leaders and other social reformers, they defended life imprisonment as a more rational alternative. By the 1850s these reform efforts began to bear fruit. Venezuela (1853) and Portugal (1867) were the first nations to abolish the death penalty altogether. In the United States Michigan was first state to abolish it for murder in 1847. Today, it is virtually abolished in all of Western Europe and most of Latin America. Britain effectively abolished capital punishment in 1965.