Against Death Penalty

The issue of the hanging of Yakub Memon, convicted for his role in the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993, has again brought to the fore the question of the death penalty. The debate on whether the death penalty serves, or runs contrary to, the purpose the law has been instituted for is now old. Many countries in the world have abolished capital punishment to demonstrate the evolution of law. In the Indian context, where the incompetence of the police, investigative and judicial authorities is part of the criminal justice system, there is always a question mark on whether guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt or whether a scapegoat has been made to just close a case. And, therefore even more a case for doing away with capital punishment.

There is also the fact that rank political calculations often determine who is to be hanged and when – the case of Afzal Guru being a stark reminder. Even with Memon, given the fact that others on death row – like Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar or Balwant Singh Rajoana (convicted for attacks on a Congress leader and a former CM of Punjab, respectively) – are allegedly not being hanged due to opposition from Punjab-based parties, the question has already been raised whether communalist considerations are at play in deciding which lives are to be snuffed out.

Given that, would it not make sense for a sustained debate on the death penalty in India, leading to its eventual abolishment? Were one to take the logic of the Indian state itself, for a moment, would it not make sense to avoid inflaming passions such hangings can arouse in various parts and among various communities?

Apart from that, globally, the arguments against capital punishment have ranged from even the economic – studies have been conducted, in the US for example, on whether it is more economical to execute death row prisoners than keep them in prison for life – to the more sensible questions of the ethics of law. The law is not immutable, something ahistorical. It evolves, its interpretations are subjected to examination in every age and era. And, in this age, leaving aside (if one can) the general mayhem and murder that suffuses our lives, there is still room for arguing that by killing an individual by law, a state, and the law it represents, is guilty of the same crime for which it hands out the punishment.

One Response to "Against Death Penalty"

  1. Dr Arshad   July 25, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    It is unfortunate that the real culprits of the Mumbai Bomb blasts are still at large. If true (as mentioned in your news paper and also maintained by Mr Raman a member of an Intelligence Bureau), Yakub’s surrender was voluntary, he should be spared from taking to the gallows. It is true that the Indian Muslims confine themselves talking these issues within the four walls of their homes baring few exceptions. They do it in order to restore the social fabric of a plural society like India and sometime to escape from the hostile radical elements. Some refrain from talking openly as they perceive it counter productive for the community in particular and for the society at large. However, we need to understand why a number of our fellow Indians celebrate the brutalities committed by Israel against the innocent Palestinian women and children. We also need need to understand why there is so much euphoria to celebrate the hanging of Yakub, and at the same place there are people to openly defend the killer of Mahatama Gandhi. Why is it that the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast haunts our minds so terribly and we tend to forget the pogrom of 1984 so easily? Why is it that the alleged culprits of Malegaon bomb blast, the Mecca Masjid balst etc are revered so much that it may bring them political fortunes in future. It needs to be noted that the judiciary in India is unbiased, however, the agencies conducting the investigations and involved in this lengthy process may not be so. In order to develop India into a vibrant functioning democracy in the real sense of the term we need to be honest and deter from all forms of hypocrisy. Being silent does not mean that people do not understand the truth. At times they may act politically correct.