“Who in this world has courage enough; to challenge His decision and take my life?”
I seek to borrow the poignant message conveyed by a convict where he expresses his agony against the capital punishment adjudged by a court. Before I barge upon to substantiate my inner voice, I would like to harmonize our understanding upon what ‘law’ basically is- Law is the by product of the conscience of the society, it is not only a set of apparatus put together to radiate harmony but also promote and inculcate civil behaviour which may not always be an outcome of stringent reactions. We first need to analyse the status quo, in context to ‘heinous crimes’, India follows the retributive theory with a hint of deterrent theory of punishment which aims to inflict the same kind of pain and fear which the victim has suffered.
According to Amnesty International (September 2012 Report), 51% of the world countries have abolished death penalty in toto while 90% of the countries have abolished it in case of non- severe crimes. Worldwide, justice redressal systems are increasingly shifting their focus on reformative approach. The spirit flowing from the words of the venerable Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Hate the crime, not the criminal’ is now being adopted as the norm of the justice.
The Justice Verma committee which was constituted to improvise the laws relating to the safety of the women which presently are no fiercer than a ‘toothless tiger’ even commented- ‘the world community is abandoning capital punishments and our country should strike this chord with the world.’ Our Indian Constitution by the virtue of Article 15 (3) [hereinafter referred to as ‘Article’]proclaims that special provision for women and children can be made. This Article can be used to bring the perpetrators against women under the ambit of capital punishment. On the other hand, if we take into consideration the reformatory approach of punishment, we can aim for far better results. Education can eliminate all evils, basic chivalry and courteous behavior can be taught at primary levels, association of ‘sex’ as a sign of social taboo has to be done away with, respect towards other gender and atmosphere of equity needs to be promulgated. All these solutions are surely not possible to be achieved by inculcating fear of death. Also conviction of a person for death penalty unnecessarily fuels unwanted chaos on the matters which are incidental to that person’s life such as his religion, place of his descent, his caste etc. The family left behind of the convict is bereft of any support as the court is only concerned of the victim. For a country like India, which aims to tax 10% surcharge (Union budget for FY 2013- 14) on the ‘super- rich’ citizens earning more than Rs. 1 Cr./ Annum in order to fill its treasury quickly should refrain from such expensive procedure of death penalties as it attracts an exorbitant chunk of publics’ money.
On a counter thought, death penalty surely serves as a ferocious warning to potential criminals and can give them a strong reason to be at their best. After the horrific Delhi Gang Rape case, an individual is emotionally triggered at the pity state of affairs and commands the court to set everything right with a single blow of gavel. But after rational realization, such demand for capital punishment which is beyond proportion to the punishment provided for in Indian Penal Code is not just. There can be various alternative methods for punishing the convict such as rigorous life imprisonment without any possibility of parole and no protection of good behavior relief which is provided for in the prison manual.
Today’s world has increasing become concerned with enforcement of human rights. The concerned authorities of jail in which Afzal Guru was hanged already is gripped with issues over why his family members were not informed appropriately about his hanging. India should not afford to give rise to another controversy which will only give the world community to comment negatively about India’s justice redressal system.