THE UNTOLD STORY OF HIDDEN VICTIMS

6

AUTHOR:

Javed Rafi ( javed.[email protected] )

4th year, BA.LLB.(Hons.), Jamia Millia Islamia

Although by executing three capital punishments in the recent times, Indian judiciary may have shown its conscientiousness for the nation and the society as well. But the hidden victims remain crying out for justice and their story remains untold since the year in which the capital punishment had been executed. And the problem still exists in our country.

Now who are these hidden victims? Families of those sentenced to death and of course, the families suddenly faced with shock and pain of the persons murdered. An execution touches so many more people than the offender who the State has decided to kill. We certainly can never forget the victims of violent crime and their families. Losing a family member to homicide is perhaps the most horrible thing that one can imagine. But the ripple effects of a state killing go further still. Majorly because an execution is also legally classified as a homicide, and there is another family to think of, that of the person who is being executed.

These families dependant upon the deceased may agonize over their family member’s suffering. Both families face financial loss, grief and trauma. Victims’ families usually suffer equally regardless of the death penalty, but the tragic pain and grief that families of the executed endure is often overlooked.

It is axiomatic that if a person is murdered, the people that person is survived by become incapable of getting financial assistance which they were receiving from the deceased in his lifetime. Their conditions become deteriorated when they have to cope with detectives, prosecutors, and to meet certain formalities as witnesses, etc.

On the other hand, families of those charged with a capital punishment may not always need to indulge into searching for lawyers to defend their relative’s case because there is a provision of legal aid under Article 39A of the Indian Constitution which seeks to assist an accused who can’t afford the service of lawyers, is provided with the same. But they are ostracized which results into lack of cooperation and collaboration by the societies with these families. They are tagged by some derogatory remarks because they belong to a family where a member is held as criminal and is on a death row. How can they deal with all odds? Not meeting their accused family member and alienating him totally would further negative effects on the mind of the accused.

If we distinguish between the family conditions of a victim and a convict (after execution), a big picture would demonstrate that they have lost their beloved one but in context to social and economic conditions the family of a convict is terribly hit.

Susan F. Sharp has written in her book –

The family of the person facing execution are fortunate than the family members of murder victims in one important way. Their family member is still alive, and they can have contact, although limited. The family members of the victim had no time to prepare themselves for loss. On the other hand, the protracted death process or “anticipated death” faced by families of those sentenced to death can take a toll, resulting in anger, depression, and frustration. Social isolation is common.”

The children in both kinds of families are often the hardest hit, unable to articulate their feelings and come to terms with the situation. The family conditions put strain on them which they are not capable enough to handle, and has a direct effect on their education.

It is not possible for the State to cure every family’s problems.  But in some exceptional cases it has to intervene with the light of assistance, irrespective of whether the family is related to the person murdered or the murderer. The Indian government sometimes provides monetary compensation to certain crime victims, especially if the crime or event is newsworthy, but it is not common. Like for example, no doubt the Sarabhjit case was a miscarriage of justice by the Pakistan Judiciary, for no reason the case was delayed and ultimately an innocent was murdered, and family was compensated by the Central government of India and Punjab government.

It is upto the judiciary to decide that upon which accused a punitive action is deemed fit to what extent, but there are a number of families that are left behind after the death to look after. They ought not to be ignored. Death penalties should not affect the other innocent lives.