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Report No. 35

Topic Number 45

Exemption to women generally

888. Exemption to women generally.-

We have considered the question whether women generally should be exempted from the sentence of death. While we appreciate that it would be a natural desire to avoid the death sentence on females in most cases, we do not think that a general exemption is called for. A woman may be guilty of a brutal cold blooded murder, and the case, therefore, may be one deserving the highest penalty of the law. In a case before the Supreme Court that was the situation1. Sex may have to be weighed against other circumstances.

1. Analysis of case law, Case No. 4, (Nisa Stree, AIR 1954 SC 279).

889. The matter was gone into by the Royal Commission also.1 Their conclusion was that, if there was a valid case for the retention of capital punishment, it must apply to women as well as to men, "although possibly not to an equal degree". The Commission found no adequate reason for the law to differentiate between the two sexes. It also noted that murders by women included atrocious and cold blooded cases of baby farming and of poisoning over a long period. This conclusion of the Royal Commission was shared by the Canadian Committee also2.

1. R.C. Report, p. 65, paras. 185-186.

2. Canadian Report, p. 18, para. 75.

890. In India, the case for general exemption of women is still less strong, the death penalty not being mandatory. The question of women placed in a particular situation, such as pregnant women, or women guilty of murder of their own children within a particular period after the delivery, is a separate one1.

1. See separate discussion as to pregnant women and infanticide; paras. 891-894 and 895-898, infra.

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