Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Debate over hanging Yakub Memon: Why death penalty can't be done away with

S Murlidharan Jul 23, 2015 17:11:41 IST
Updated Date: Jul 23, 2015 17:11 PM

Every time the hangman’s noose is readied, the case for and against capital punishment springs up for animated debate in the media. The arguments are by now familiar. The abolitionist school says there could be a miscarriage of justice if subsequent events prove the innocence of the individual. They also argue some evidence may show the extenuating circumstances may establish that it wasn’t cold-blooded murder. Cynics wonder how only people from the backward segments of the society and minorities figure in the rarest of rare list. They blame it on the inability of such accused to defend themselves by hiring the services of legal eagles. The votaries of capital punishment see merit in the eye-for-eye equation, the bedrock of a retributive justice system.

While Europe, barring Belarus and Kazakhstan, swears by abolition and has stopped awarding and executing death penalty, the US has been divided on the issue for long, and 18 of the 50 states have abolished the death sentence. The Indian law and jurisprudence on the issue is clear--- the death sentence to be awarded in the rarest of rare cases. The 18 states in the US that have abolished death penalty must ponder if the right to possess a gun conferred by the second amendment to the US Constitution should prevail in their states because a gun in the wrong hands can result in deaths. While the right to possess a gun is often questioned in the United States, it ought to be abolished in states that have foresworn the death penalty. Arming people who can become trigger-happy and then condoning their crimes with a softer punishment is nothing but running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

Likewise, it is for the European nations like the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland that countenance euthanasia to ponder if this sits well with their abolitionist stance. If state taking away of life of a convict is reprehensible, then the act of mercy killing and doctor assisted suicide must be deemed equally reprehensible. It may be contended that they are not comparable because while death penalty is meted out compulsorily at the instance of the judiciary, mercy killing is voluntary. But then this is a specious argument. If states cannot end life, it cannot encourage voluntary termination of one’s life, which is sanctified as law in the Netherlands. If a convict must be allowed to live fully i.e. till God has ordained him to live, it is equally the duty of the state to take care of people suffering from pain or mental trauma rather than taking their lives, given the fact that a cure may emerge later.

Coming back to the basic issue, the abolitionist school for the death penalty misses the wood for trees. Doing away of death penalty must be presaged by a guarantee that the society would be free of wanton murders and killings. Can any government worth its salt give such a guarantee? The question is not merely rhetorical. If a government cannot prevent wanton killings, it should not take up cudgels for those indulging in such killings. Many of the Scandinavian countries are pacifists but that does not mean murders and killings don’t take place in the region. While it is debatable if death penalty is sufficiently deterrent, the truth is that the ends of justice would be met only if wanton murder is met with execution of such murderer. It is all fine to say that a lifetime imprisonment is more painful than death, but the reality is boredom is not an affliction that affects every prisoner uniformly.

The sentimental amongst the abolitionists contend that a death penalty penalises the family more the convict. That is maybe, but the poignant truth is all premature deaths are God’s punishment against the family rather than against the deceased. The one who dies prematurely leaves behind a distraught family often unable to fend for itself economically and emotionally.

Source: https://www.firstpost.com/india/debate-over-hanging-yakub-memon-why-death-penalty-cant-be-done-away-with-2358810.html (Accessed on 18 December 2018)

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