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Should death penalty be abolished

Posted by Shreyans Jain Tuesday, 17 September 2013 0 comments

“I was a man once. I'm a beast now and they made me what I am. They chained me up like a wild animal; they lashed me like a hound. I fed on filth, I was covered with vermin. They took away my name, they took away my soul and they gave me a devil in its place.” 
                                                                          --THE BISHOP'S CANDLESTICKS

Crime and punishment go hand in hand, so do war and peace. With increasing incidents of crime across the nation – rape, homicide, human trafficking, drug abuse, flesh trade et cetera, the clamour for harsher and stringent punishment is becoming louder and stronger. Doesn’t it seem legitimate – what right do people guilty of heinous crimes lay claim to? What do they deserve but death for their immoral offence? Isn’t it incumbent on the society to rid itself of the sin and the perpetrators of crime? Isn’t the victim entitles to justice even if it means wreaking vengeance on the accused by demanding his/her death?

Death sentence speaks to a larger underlying incoherence in India’s penology. Awarding death penalty is tantamount to withdrawing the protective arm of community around the convict and is a step backward in a society’s progress from barbarity to civilised refinement. Punishment, however harsh it may be is not meant to be revenge. Its purpose it to assuage the feeling of unfortunate victims -a compensation, however meagre. This, by no means implies that punishment should not match the severity, callousness and ruthlessness of the crime committed. For the punishment to be just it must have only that degree of intensity that suffices to deter others from crime. Of late it has been widely observed and reported that the death penalty was aimed at deterring the future commission of crime, which it did not achieve and at reforming the offenders, which it cannot achieve.

No loss of human life should be a reason for celebration, however despicable the individual might have been. Retaining the death penalty on the grounds of retribution alone is flawed at many levels beyond its inherent immorality. It contradicts the core objectives of the criminal justice system – to reform and rehabilitate the offenders. No individual is born a criminal. The punitive system of the society and the trials and tribulations faced by an individual deviate him from his path of humanity sow the seeds of bitterness, resentment and hostility in his heart. This induces him to come in conflict with law. Lashing a convict at a time when he needs to be treated compassionately thwarts the transformation process in its nascent stages that is already very gradual owing to various familial, social and environmental factors.

The need of the hour is to revisit our laws and consider a moratorium on death penalty. Rather than demanding guillotine for an accused, we need to strengthen our laws and ensure peace through better policing, effective and efficient prosecutorial conduct. We need to focus our attention on developing ways to reform our prisoners.  We need to uproot crime right at the grassroots level through a better education structure by encouraging dialogue among the different sections of society. Let us not forget that an eye for an eye will make the entire world blind.


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