Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

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)

Updated: July 9, 2014 — 12:00 pm

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