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Monday, November 07, 2005

Capital crime

Capital punishment has been abolished in most democracies. However, it still continues in India (also in USA, Japan, Singapore etc.). According to Amnesty annual report 2004: During 2004, at least 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries. At least 7,395 people were sentenced to death in 64 countries. On top of the list are China (3,400), Iran (159), Vietnam (64) and USA (59). The actual numbers may be much higher.
Capital Punishment has come back to news in India after APJ Abdul Kalam asked for a revisit on this issue and the recent award of death sentence to the Red Fort attack suspects. In my personal opinion, capital punishment is a blatant crime. Considere these: Two of the most cited arguments for capital punishment are deterrence and solace for victim/ or victim's family.

Let’s take deterrence: Many researches have proved this argument false showing that life imprisonment is deterrence enough. Life imprisonment is onerous, gruesome, and never-ending with an option for reform. Death gives the accused relief within a flash. The one who suffers the most in the case of death penalty is not the accused, but his/ her family who may have lost their only breadowner (most accused are from poor family). And are the very hard nosed criminals or terrorists fearful of death? Don't we know the whole inspiration behind suicide bombers and desperados? And if you really believe that it acts as a deterrent then why not make it one hell of a deterrent? A public, slow and painful execution will be an even stronger deterrent as in Kafka's "The Penal Colony" wherein the sentence is inscribed on the body of accused through a unique machine till he dies. Do you have an appetite for that? Let’s stop the hypocrisy for once.

Now let’s take solace to victim/ victim's family: I believe that the victim or his family will find reasonable consolation if the worst possible sentence permitted under the system is given to the accused. So if life imprisonment is the maximum possible sentence (and not death); then the victim's family will be reasonably satisfied if the accused is given that. As an analogy, none of us are too depressed because we can't be the prime minister of our country. We are happy if we get most of our wants within reasonable expectations. So once the bar is set, victim's family will feel OK if the accused has been given the worst award from this bar if his crime is of that magnitude.

Also consider the irreversibility of the method and the potentially grave mistakes that could be done. Many people support the penalty saying that this is justice done. The same people talk openly on other occasions about how little faith they have on the police and legal system in India. How do they suddenly develop so much faith in the legal system when it comes to death penalty? We are so supportive of death penalty sometimes because it doesn't affect us. And we also get agitated through feelings of patriotism and one-dimensional religious morality. Put yourself in place of the wife/son/mother of the accused. Their man in grave is so hopeless than their man in jail.

In India no executions were carried out between 1994 and 2004 while DhananJoy Chatterjee was hanged in 2004. This is in the context of the practice in India, as described by the Supreme court that, "The death penalty is to be used in the "rarest of rare" cases'.

In 1977, just 16 countries had abolished capital punishment for all crimes. Today the figure stands at 86. I so wish we join this list soon


Ashish Gupta said...

I know its futile to counter argues here because neither are you going to change your views, nor am I, and neither its going to change the law of land, but I am going to do anyway, cause I am jobless for while.

Deterrence: Once the culprit is proven guilty (and to avoid mistakes you can make process as difficult as you want) there needn't be any sympathy for the culprit nor for his family. Not that family is to blame but their misery need not be any reason for any reduction in sentence. And how are you suggesting that there is no loss on breadwinner in life imprisionment? Criminal still cannot help his family anyway in prision. Why should state/society spent money in feeding and guarding the culprits of most heinous crimes, the case when death is usually given. Also this provides opportunities for criminal's friends/terrorists to bargain for his life by taking hostage innocent people. This leaves chance for criminal to escape, plan revenge, or leave after life sentence which is usually not for full life but more like 20 years or so. Killing end this chance once for all. If criminals are not fearful of death, doesn't matter, as long as it serves the cause of people. Regarding public execution, its barbaric compared to silent killing. Emphasis on compared to.

Solace: Lets not try to weigh down the grief to family of the victim. And most natural reaction to heinous crimes deserving capital punishment is death. Lets give victims that at least. After the crime, life is culprit is not worth anything, and deserved to be ended even if it gives false solace to the family.

Once again, to avoid mistakes, you can make process very difficult, which it already is, as you yourself quoted death penalty in India in last 2 decades. I don't want to be offensive but it appears to me like you have more sympathy for family/wife/mother of criminal then to family/wife/mother of victim (usually in capital punishment there are more than one victim)

Global Indian said...

I fully agree with Ashish. The best examples are Ahmad Saeed Omer Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar. Remember them?? They are terrorists caught in India by our security forces.

Had they been given the capital punishment (and that too quick after they were caught), a lot of innocents could have been saved. The five foreigners kidnapped and killed by Al-Faran could have been saved. Many more innocents who are losing lives to Jaish-e-Mohammed could have been saved. Daniel Pearl(Ahmad Saeed Omer Sheikh was involved in his killing) could have been saved. Many more government employees who are kidnapped and killed in Kashmir for the release of these terrorists could have been saved. And who knows 9/11 would not have happened (Again Ahmad Saeed Omer Sheikh was involved in financing the whole operation).

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT is required, but should be used discreetly. Saudi Arabia and China kind of capital punishments should be banned, but states with relatively corruption-free justice systems should have and use capital punishment as and when NECESSARY. I don't understand why the victims are never considered humans by these so-called human right activists.

Anonymous said...

I disagree thoroughly. I'll refer to your arguments first:

1. Deterrence is to the accused. Not of myriad other crimes.

2. A dead hardened criminal/terrorist is one less animal on the street to deal with.

3. If we talk of the criminal's family, what of the victims' families? Dont they need to know that the perpetrator of a heinous crime on their kin has been put away and will not come back to haunt them, or other people?

4. In India, there is a lenghty procedure for a criminal to be put on death row - and Dhananjay was in prison for a few years, before put to the gallows.

Now, coming to the point of what most "abolitionists" talk of

5. Life Imprisonment is enough of a deterrence - no its not. The porous nature of jails, and how hardened criminals like Shahabuddin not only roam free, but become "public servants" should be enough of a example to show why life imprisonment isnt any deterrent. They can and do escape. And bring more havoc.

6. Considering its mostly applied to heinous crimes, I dont see why my tax money should go to support some slimy bastard who hurt a lot of people. What right does that person have to existence?

7. Consideration of the Criminal's family - lets consider the victim's family as well, shall we, if the victim's family says "Let the criminal go scot-free", should we?
The law isnt relative, its absolute, which is why the saying "no one is above the law". Consider the recent misjudgement where a lady judge let a rapist go scot-free because he said he'd marry the victim!! Such things are total no-no.

and a question:

8. Every other criminal in India doesnt get the death sentence - its only terrorists or hardened criminals or people who rape and kill children who get a death sentence, why are the abolitionists out to save such people's lives?

Shivaji said...

I fully agree with thomas...
And I am confused by the pther comments..To an extent they justify my rationale...
One one hand the commenters are saying that hardened criminals, if not killed, may go scot free and harm others again..Why will they go scot free- only because you believe that our jails, legal and police system are not efficient enough...Then why do u all trust them to be the supreme example of efficiency when they declare someone to be a terrorist and then hang him...In the US in many cases, people were pardoned (found not guilty) after they were killed..I am sure there are many such cases in India too.. Things are not so simple my friend, when someone is accused, a lot goes behind the motivation for accusing- finding a scapegoat, professional advancement of a security official, need of government to show they are acting etc...
And a safest society is one where all men are killed right at birth..Would you support that?

Anonymous said...

I think that capital punishment has to be reserved for certain crimes. Yes terrorists....the faster they are dealt with the better, because they are an expandable commodity....and there will be more of the same scum.

On the other hand, for other crimes like rape, murder, etc. I think the person should be given a life sentence without parole, so that they rot and die in the prison and dont get the quick solution that capital punishment offers them.

Ashok said...

I agree with Sivaji.
I don't think there is justification for killing, with or without judicial sanction.
Here's a good collection of arguments for and against the death penalty.