Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Death penalty is a deterrent

In one James Bond film it is said: Once can be happenstance. Twice can be coincidence. Thrice or more enemy is at work. On NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre on three days Nidhi Razdan asked the question: Is death penalty a deterrent? She implied it was not. My answer is “Yes”.

First time Nidhi Razdan asked the question with regard to remarks by Justice Markandeya Katju about policemen who kill in fake encounters. He had said “Such policemen should be hanged. It is nothing but cold-blooded brutal murder, and yes, police personnel responsible should be hanged.” The discussion turned around fake encounters. Y. P. Singh said policemen do a noble job in an unethical way. It is a political call to control crime. The government of the day asks police to finish criminals. When there were gang wars in Bombay encounters took place and criminals disappeared.

There was no terrorist activity at the time. Later encounter specialists fell from grace. Encounters stopped. There were serial train blasts and 26/11. Last month there were three bomb blasts.

Second time was when it became known that Home Ministry has asked the President to reject Afzal Guru’s mercy petition. One panelist said he was opposed to death penalty in general. TSR Subramaniam said death penalty is given in rarest of rare cases and this is a rarest of rarest of rare case. Those who say Kashmir will go up in flames if Afzal Guru is hanged ignore the fact that Maqbool Butt’s hanging for the murder of Deputy High Commissioner Mhatre in Birmingham scared the living daylights out of JKLF.

Third time was on 11/8/2011. The President had rejected mercy petitions of three LTTE members. Renuka Chowdhury defended the decision. One panelist spoke of European Union and Gandhian philosophy. He forgot Gandhi’s killers were hanged. Ashok Desai and Nirmala Seetharaman were in favour of death penalty.

Opponents of death penalty engage in misinformation and disinformation.

First disinformation is that life sentence is worse than death penalty. It is not. Criminals don’t want to die and are happy to live in jail as long as they can. Some faint on the day of their hanging.

European Union (EU) countries have abolished death penalty. That is not a reason for India to abolish death penalty. We don’t have to follow EU countries. Some of them are bankrupt. Some are on the verge of bankruptcy. See the mess in England. During riots even rich people go to rob. In Norway some want death penalty for the terrorist who killed 76 people. China, USA, Japan and many other countries have death penalty. India is equal to all EU countries put together. EU is not paradise on earth.

Second disinformation is that murders have gone down in countries which abolished death penalty. Those who say that do not give any proof or lie about statistics.

Third disinformation is that death penalty does not serve any purpose of justice i.e., reformative, retributive and deterrent. Death penalty serves retributive and deterrent purposes.

There is misinformation that 26/11 terrorists were on a suicide mission. They were told to take some hostages. The government will negotiate and allow them to return. That did not happen. When a terrorist serves a life sentence there is the danger of abduction or hijacking for the release of the terrorist and the released terrorist killing many more. While nothing can be done about suicide bombers if those who send them are hanged that will reduce terrorists. Suicide bombers are given money and are told that their families will be taken care of once they die.

Some say a civilized country should not have death penalty. What is civilized about murder? Murder is a crime, pure and simple.

When death penalty was the norm there were not many encounter deaths and terrorist activities. After the Supreme Court strayed into the territory of executive and restricted death penalty to rarest of rare cases the situation changed.

In Pakistan there has not been death penalty for a long time and terrorism has increased. In Mexico murders multiplied after abolition of death penalty.

I have a suspicion that a lobbyist is behind the question.

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  1. Studies after studies have shown in USA that death penalty is not a deterrent. Also more than 200 people who were sentenced to death or life term in prison have been found to be innocent after serving more that 20 years in jail. So is it your case that you do not care even if an innocent person is hanged and later on if you find out that he was innocent, can you bring him/her back to life? Or do you think that our legal system is absolutely bullet proof that no innocent person will get hanged?

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