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A political pardon

Posted by Shreyans Jain Tuesday, 4 March 2014 0 comments

In it February 18, 2014 judgement, the Supreme Court while commuting the death penalty of the convicts of assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to life imprisonment, said, “Life imprisonment means end of one’s life, subject to any remission granted by the appropriate government under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which in turn, is subject to procedural checks”. Such a pragmatic decision was welcomed as an act of compassion. But a straight leap from gallows to wholesale release of convicts as has been proposed by the Tamil Nadu government brings out the political shrewdness of a rare degree. While aware of the political mileage that a Tamil – sympathetic move would garner, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has resorted to political manoeuvring to score brownie points over her opponents. If the assassins of a former Prime Minister, who had been sentenced to death, are allowed to walk free on political considerations and on the basis of regional and linguistic passions, public faith in the judicial system is bound to erode, thereby reinforcing the idea of existence of kangaroo courts to deliver instant and locally acceptable justice. It seems as if only the criminals and terrorists and not the common man, are entitled to enjoy their fundamental rights, even if it means causing injustice to the victims of their ghastly acts. It is shameful that the death of several civilians along with the assassination of former Prime Minister is being exploited in the name of religion, caste, language and now votes! In this game of one-upmanship among political parties, the sense of fair play and natural justice has taken a severe beating. No doubt these convicts have been languishing in prison for over two decades but is society safe with such self-styled martyrs walking scot-free? Is society safe if people involved in heinous crimes are allowed to walk freely among others?

A decision on remission of convicts is bound to have serious repercussions for India’s external and internal security policies. It can have a significant impact on the law and order situation in states hit by militancy. Arbitrary and political decisions on the release or rehabilitation of life convicts can threaten the rule of law and the integrity of the nation.

Any decision based on regional passions carries with it the dangers of creating a systemic disconnect between a particular state and the rest of India. Display of sagacity and a humanistic spirit by the apex court should not, by any means, be viewed as the acquittal of the convicts of their crime. It is time a strong message is sent out to the political class that such political gimmicks will have grave and sometimes disastrous consequences.


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