Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: India

Rape

National Council for Women (NCW) has recommended the replace the word “rape” with sexual assault in various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Women activists said the word “rape” was derogatory to women. Two of their recommendations are as follows:

1) The definition of rape should be widened and not be restricted to vaginal penetration. Oral and anal penetration, or even body contact, should be considered “sexual assault.”

2) Buying sexual favours (from sex workers) should also be considered sexual assault.

I oppose them on following grounds:

1) The word “rape” should be maintained as it is and shall continue to mean vaginal penetration as vaginal penetration can result in pregnancy and oral and anal penetration do not result in pregnancy. Rape is a serious crime. It is not derogatory to women. It is derogatory for the rapists. Replacing “rape” with “sexual assault” and clubbing together with other crimes will dilute the seriousness of rape.

2) When sexual favours are bought there is no assault.

NCW should stop demanding change in terminology. Calling a “widow” “wife of late so and so” or calling a “prostitute” “commercial sex workers” does not result in betterment. There is nothing derogatory about being a widow.

Death penalty II

Wrong is wrong even if said by a Chief Justice. Justice Brennan of Supreme Court of USA was wrong when in 1981 he said “I believe that a majority of the Supreme Court will one day accept that when the State punishes with death, it denies the humanity and dignity of the victim.”

Let us not talk of reforming criminals. When murderers are not punished with death many people who would not have committed murder commit murder.

In 1980 the Supreme Court in the Bachchan Singh vs State of Punjab case set the standard of death penalty being awarded in the “rarest of rare” cases. After that murders became open. Court, lock up, hospital, railway station and other places full of people would not deter criminals.

Since independence 55 persons were hanged for murder. This number is insignificant considering the number of people murdered which does not include murders passed off as accidents, suicides and natural deaths.

There are many who want death penalty for rape more so when committed by policemen.

There should be Presidential accountability. K. R. Narayan kept 12 mercy petitions pending. This is dereliction of duty. He should be deprived of pension and other benefits due as Ex-President.

Many escape death penalty does not mean those who are sentenced should be let off. Being poorest of the poor or Dalit does not mean the murderer should be treated differently.

Let us examine some of the mercy petitions pending:

1) Three persons in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. These people belonged to a gang which killed many people including Rajiv Gandhi.

2) Veerappan‘s juniors. These four were part of a gang headed by Veerappan which killed 122 people. Veerappan had escaped from prison. In 2000 he kidnapped Raj Kumar and Karnataka was ready to surrender to him. Supreme Court prevented it. Later Veerappan got ransom. Figures vary from Rs.20 crore to Rs.40 crore. Later an ex-minister was killed.

3) Punjab terrorists. These four killed 17 people including a seven year old child in 1991 near Amritsar.

The damage done by the above mentioned and similar murderers is immense.

The people opposed to death penalty twist statistics to show that murders have gone down after abolition of death penalty. Rajinder Sachar wrote in Times of India dt. 26/10/2005 “In Canada, the homicide rate declined after the abolition of death penalty in 1976. In 2000, there were 542 homicides in Canada, 16 less than in 1998 and 159 less than in 1975 (a year prior to the abolition of capital punishment). There is difference between murder and homicide. Will Rajinder Sachar give the figure for murders in 1985 including 329 killed in Kanishka bombing? The murderers had planned to blow up another plane carrying more than 500 passengers and crew(520 or 521) which landed before scheduled time and the people were saved.

If the President feels it is a matter of conscience he should quit.

Chief Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti on 31/10/2005, his last day in office, justifying death penalty and referring to Delhi blasts on 29/10/2005, said “What other penalty would suit perpetrators of such brutal acts? What other penalty is called for if the crime is proved beyond reasonable doubt? What happens is that, we forget the past. We see only the face of the accused, who is before us and his family. We forget the victims and their families.”

Let there be death penalty for every murder.

Death penalty

President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam‘s actions have reopened the debate about death penalty. Very often a vociferous minority dominates a silent majority. This should not be allowed to happen. Punishment should be proportionate to crime and death penalty is suitable punishment for murder, attempted murder, character assassination and acid throwing.

Abolitionists put forward following arguments:

1) Fallibility of human nature. What if there is a mistake?

2) Irrevocability

3) Life is God given and no State has a right to deprive another person of his life.

4) Human nature is capable of reformation.

5) Life imprisonment is a greater punishment than death penalty.

Counter arguments:

1) What if there is no mistake. In that case will abolitionists accept death penalty. If punishment cannot be given because of chances of mistake then we have to close down courts. Nobody can be prosecuted. Reversal of judgments by appellate courts is used to justify the abolition. As things stand Supreme Court is the final court.

2) A person murdered cannot be brought back to life. Murderer needs to be put to death.

3) Atheists do not accept God’s acceptance. Abolitionists forget that murderer has taken life. If someone commits murder he has no right to live.

4) Whether the murderer reforms later on and does good things is immaterial. Crime needs punishment.

5) This is a poor joke. Life is dear to murderers. Nothing terrifies them more than death penalty. People who escape from prison can commit more murders. Remember Veerappan.

In India some more arguments are used for abolition.

1) It has been abolished in many countries.

2) Some countries are wary of extradition treaties with India given that death penalty is legal here.

Counter arguments:

1) India is not a small country like many of them. We are not to follow what others do but do what is right. USA, China and many other countries have death penalty. The list of countries with death penalty is impressive. China has death penalty for corruption. Many countries have death penalty for drug trafficking.

2) We must be firm in our resolve to punish criminals as per our law. USA put pressure on Switzerland to change its secrecy laws in banking to prevent money laundering by criminals.

Article 72 gives the President “power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions.” This has to be exercised only with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Even if the President had power to pardon by himself, he should not pardon or commute those found guilty by the Supreme Court and whose mercy petitions are pending.

Also only one mercy petition should be allowed. Repeated mercy petitions should be disallowed. Once the mercy petition is disallowed the person should be hanged at the earliest.

Someone reaching 75 is not a reason for pardon. People above 75 can be used for murder. Whether he returns to life of crime is immaterial. Let there be no talk of turning liabilities into assets. We are not talking about a balance sheet of a company. Allowing death row convicts to spend the rest of their lives with their family members is height of injustice.

The Union Government shall stand firm and put pressure on the President to reject all mercy petitions at once. There is no question of any blame on the President. Supreme Court awards death penalty in rarest of rare cases.

It is ridiculous to say that “In the world of today there are fewer and fewer men condemned to death for murder and more and more for political views.” Will Fali S. Nariman give the names of those condemned for murder and those for political views. Murderers with political views do not have special rights.

(To be continued)

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