By Kuldip Nayar
Published: October 10, 2011
The Express Tribune: With the International Herald Tribune
I have no personal differences with people who want to abolish capital punishment. It is their principled stand, as they claim, and it holds good in all cases where death sentences have been awarded. The risk of hanging an innocent person is too great, they say. Not even the state has the right to end a life which is given by God. The rationale of nearly 150 countries is more or less the same and they have taken away from their courts the power to award death sentences, however heinous the crime maybe.
India and the US are also under pressure from human rights organisations to change their archaic laws and ban the death sentence. My own belief is that the death sentence is barbaric and it needs to be abolished. It reminds me of the days when the dictum of tooth for tooth prevailed. Our government is still stuck on the idea that death sentence acts as a deterrent or that it assuages the grief of those who lose their dear ones.
I am bewildered at the attitude of the leaders and activists who ask for clemency on behalf of the culprits, who should have been hanged long ago.
This faulty thinking first made the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa, ask for clemency of three convicts of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Now, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal has asked mercy for DP Singh Bhuller who triggered a bomb blast in September 1993, which killed nine people.
And the latest in line is the chief minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Omar Abdullah, who had raised the question of whether the resolution for clemency of Afzal Guru by his state assembly would go unnoticed, as was the Tamil Nadu assembly’s resolution. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death for having attacked the parliament, which is the symbol of India’s democratic polity. All three chief ministers have politicised criminal acts. They have never demanded the abolition of the death penalty. The cases they espouse and believe, give them electoral advantage. Since politicians weigh everything on the scales of vote, they do not mind preaching something against the constitution.
Or, is it possible that they are afraid to take a stand on the basic issue and prefer to go along wherever the wind blows at a particular time? The raucous created in the Tamil Nadu assembly has been copied by the AJK assembly, beating all records. In both the cases, the ruling parties have been in the forefront in fomenting trouble.
The Supreme Court’s remark holds well in all the three cases. Taking up the mercy petition filed by Bhullar, the court has asked the government to explain the delay. After a lapse of eight years, the president who disposes mercy petitions rejected the plea on May 25 this year. All countries in South Asia have jumped into the arena. Sarabjeet Singh must languish in a Pakistani jail because he is the prize which Islamabad wants to cash in on some day to extract concession from New Delhi. Likewise, India must have a hostage in the shape of one prisoner or another from Pakistan.
There is no other way except to go back to what the law demands. Yet, I believe that there should be no hanging of Afzal Guru, D P Singh Bhuller, Sarabjeet Singh and the Rajiv Gandhi assassins. Their death sentences should be commuted to life imprisonment. And life sentence should mean sentence for life, till the culprit breathes his last in jail.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2011.
accessed on 12th October 2011
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