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September 6, 2011 / subramanyam

My take on Capital Punishment

          The demand for commuting the death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers is now becoming an emotional issue in TamilNadu, A majority of the politicians from TamilNadu are supporting it and the TN Legislative assembly has passed a unanimous resolution to convert the capital punishment to life imprisonment, this is now having a multiplying effect on other states as well. Omar Abdullah tweeted on Afzal Guru and Badal saab under pressure to save Bhuller .All these happenings from Tamilnadu, Punjab and J&K are prompting the country to debate the issue of capital punishment once again.

          As such capital punishment is an issue that has and is being debated all over the world , both the proponents and opponents have their own points and the best part of this is that most of them are valid.

          Capital punishment, also called as death penalty is the State’s (Government’s ) way of taking away the life of a person in response to a heinous crime committed by the person . Many countries and their constitutions allow capital punishment only in the rarest of the rare cases where the crime is not just heinous but very very premeditated and is of “one of its case” category. While a majority of the democratic countries have abolished capital punishment India is among those 58 countries which allow capital punishment on their soil.

         The opponents of capital punishment opine that capital punishment is a barbaric and cruel way of punishing a person and by doing so the society is denying a person the right to live and is imposing an irrevocable punishment by taking away his/her life. According to Amnesty International “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.

          They go on to add that death penalty is based on a false premise that we can prove that killing is wrong by killing the killer  which is oxymoronical in nature.

          People in support of death penalty have something different to offer, their argument is that “death penalty” in a way, can dissuade a person from committing a heinous crime. The very thought of death as a consequence to his own actions might make the person think twice before committing a crime. This is based on a fundamental premise that most of the people love their lives and even this premise is subject to questions and debate . This premise might be effective but might not be applicable in all contexts.

          The other argument that comes forward from the proponents of death penalty is the rights and justice needed to families of victims; doesn’t it cheapen the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again? Is it not the responsibility of the society to ensure that more and more people do not tread the wrong path ? Yes life is precious but what about the life of already slain one?

          Even if we agree in principle that taking life away in the form of a punishment is brutal death penalty is not an option to keep the criminal away from committing heinous crimes again , what else is an option , life term ? then the question that arises is,  why should the tax payers money be utilized to keep a hardened criminal alive.

          Each of the arguments has is own merits and pitfalls , however I personally support death penalty in the Indian context, this is because our constitution permits our government to use Capital punishment in the rarest of the rare cases , the crimes which come under this are murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the nation, and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces, offense of “large scale narcotics trafficking” and for people convicted of terrorist activities.

          All the crimes mentioned above come under rarest of the rare category and to me waging war against my motherland is an intolerable offence , If I am not giving death penalty to a person like Kasab who has tried to attack a city and killed as many people as possible what’s the worth of those who laid their lives in protecting the city form the attack, what will happen to the morale of my own countriy’s policemen/women if they fight people like Kasab on day1 and stand to guard them on day2.

          Same is the case with other offences , if we capture a terrorist who contemplated to attack our parliament and then don’t give the capital punishment to him and let him scout free will the police be motivated enough to risk their lives and catch another terrorist the next time . Not just this , just remember what happened in the case of Masood Azhar we captured him , then a flight of ours was hijacked and we had to relieve him , did we do justice to the lives of army men who died while capturing the dreaded terrorist.In case of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination what about the families of 30+ policeman and civilians who died there that day? Don’t they and their families have any rights? And by going soft on all these things what’s the message we are giving to criminals ,the other anti-social elements and terrorists,  are we going to tell them that “you do whatever you want to do but we are going to make sure that you live a long and protected life in jail” I don’t what India to give out this sort of image , hence I support capital punishment.

          One more thing I would like to add is , the Indian judicial system ensures that every person gets a free and fair trial , and every case with respect to death penalty eventually goes to the supreme court , lets trust the wisdom of Supreme Court of India in matters of this sort, if the Supreme Court of India believes that a person has earned the ultimate punishment our constitution has got to offer by committing a crime with aggravating circumstances present, let the person have it , why make it another issue and rouse sentiments about it ?



Leave a Comment
  1. chapter18 / Sep 13 2011 1:24 pm

    Well written article. The fact is that keeping a terrorist alive, after being nabbed, is a greater danger as happened in the case of Masood Azhar.



  1. Take punishment | Onerbuck

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