Contradictions in Judicial Support for Capital Punishment in India and Bangladesh: Utilitarian Rationales

By Saul Lehrfreund / Carolyn Hoyle / Asian Journal of Criminology, on 1 January 2019

This article draws on two original empirical research projects that explored judges’ opinions on the retention and administration of capital punishment in India and Bangladesh. The data expose justice systems marred by corruption, incompetence, abuses of due process, and arbitrary and inconsistent treatment of defendants from arrest through to conviction and sentencing. It shows that those with the power to sentence to death have little faith in the integrity of the criminal process. Yet, a startling paradox emerges from these studies; despite personal knowledge of its flaws, judges have trust in the death penalty to deter crime and to realise other sentencing aims and feel retention benefits society. This is explained by reference to utilitarian values. Not only did our judges express strongly utilitarian justifications for sentencing people to death, in terms of their erroneous belief in its deterrent effect, but some also articulated utilitarian justifications for misconduct in pre-trial processes, suggesting that it was necessary to break the rules to secure convictions when the system was dysfunctional and ineffective.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list Bangladesh
  • Themes list Arbitrariness, Death Penalty,