Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Brain and heart

Contemporary medical science believes brain is the seat of the person. A person who is brain dead is declared dead and other living organs are transplanted. Many times people who had heart transplantations had change of personality. They even remember some things which happened to brain dead person. This raises question about declaring a person whose heart beats but brain is dead as dead. What if contemporary medical science is wrong? Now life can be prolonged with artificial hearts. If we can have artificial brains and make brain dead persons live how wonderful it will be?

At one time doctors believed blood letting will bring down temperature and cure fever. Many times blood letting brought down temperature to such levels that the patients died. Many theories and practices have been proved wrong. Medical scientists must re-examine their theories about brain and death.


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.

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