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Friday, September 4, 2015

In Support of the Death Penalty

Almost three decades to this day sixteen year old Geeta Chopra , a 2nd year student of Jesus and Mary College, and her  fourteen year old brother, Sanjay, a 10th standard student  of  Modern School,  left home to participate in a radio programme called the Yuva Vani on the All India Radio. Two bright young  peppy cheerful loved happy youngsters with nary a care in the world. Two days later their parents were called to identify their  mutilated, bruised, vandalised, tortured , bodies.

I ask you to close your eyes and bring that moment in front of your eyes. That moment – the moment when the sheets were lifted from the bodies and the parents saw their children. The moment which witnessed the death of a family unit, the death of a mother’s joy, of a father’s pride, the death of hopes, ambitions, laughter, of life as it was that the family had shared.

In that sepia tinted frame of two murdered dead and two living dead, you now see the two  killers - the rapists, the vandalisers, the plunderers . The men who murdered not just two innocent teenagers but a whole family. And then, after having seen all this , you are asked to pronounce a judgement. For this rarest of rare case will you not say what  the hon’ble court read out on a blistery cold January day in 1981…to be hanged until dead?

The decision to include capital punishment was taken unanimously by the framers of our constitution – the same people who gave us our Preamble, the group which included legal luminaries, freedom fighters, the privileged and the scheduled caste.  When the Law Commission submits its report, which by all accounts will recommend abolition of death penalty, it will be going against the considered opinion of those who gave us our constitution.

It is important to remember that the penalty is read out in only the rarest of rare cases. It is because of this rarest of rare clause that a research done by National Law University, Delhi found that only 755 people have been executed since Independence. Wikipedia tells us that a total of 26 executions have taken place in India since 1991. Also important is that just 4 of  the 26 hanged since ’91 have been muslims.

Death penalty is not awarded arbitrarily and in a discriminatory manner. Fairness has always been an essential part of our system of justice. When the highest court of the land finally upholds the death penalty order the case has gone through many years of appeals , arguments, testimonies and travelled a complex legal maze. It is very rare, nee almost impossible, that an innocent is given the death penalty.

Amnesty International, which has been a leading advocate of abolishing the death penalty, maintains an official stance of “we  in no way seek to minimize or condone the crimes for which those sentenced to death were convicted. As an organization deeply concerned with the victims of human rights abuses, Amnesty International does not seek to belittle the suffering of the families of murder victims, for whom we have the greatest sympathy. However, the finality and cruelty inherent in the death penalty render it incompatible with norms of modern-day civilized behaviour….” 

Look at the irony inherent in this statement. The finality and cruelty inherent in the death penalty render it incompatible with norms of modern-day civilized behaviour… The irony lies in the talk of civilized behaviour towards those who have broken each and every mores of the civilized world- those men , and women, who never once paid heed to the finality and cruelty of their actions which resulted in death, who indulged in  behaviour which is incompatible with civilized societies. Hasn’t Amnesty itself given the reason why the ultimate penalty should be given to those who do not subscribe to societal norms?

Sitting in the comfort of our living rooms and weighing the pros and cons of capital punishment is akin to discussing whether anaesthesia should be administered to a patient going in for surgery or not.... Those not undergoing the surgery will never feel the pain. Besides the highest court of the land this should also   be decided by those who have gone through the trauma of losing a loved one to the act of gruesome murder, rape, mutilation . Remember, for capital punishment to be handed out the crime has to come under the category of rarest of rare.

We should ask the survivors of 26/11 if they are able to sleep at night without hearing the staccato of gunshots; we should ask the families who lost their loved ones to Ajmal Kasab’s madness, we should ask the mother of Nirbhaya if she will ever be able to forgive the ‘juvenile’ who rammed an iron rod inside her daughter.

And we should ask ourselves: how cruel is it of us to even think about the possibility of letting people like Billa Ranga, Ajmal Kasab and their ilk to live on? What if they repeat –in jail or outside- what they have shown they are capable of doing?


  1. There are people out there chopping off bodies of fellow humans and carrying them away on mopeds and in suitcases.There are people out there who hound their hapless victims for years despite police complaints only to rape and batter the them like mincemeat. Then there are those whose hobby it is to soak others in acid. Not only we need death penalties, these need to be carried out swiftly and in public.

  2. I completely support the death penalty. Actually sometimes I feel these people deserve worse.

  3. Excellent Greg. Good, practical stuff. I just floated your article around my network. Keep up the good work.

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  4. I totally agree with your view and very strongly feel about this topic too. Inhuman don't deserve to live.