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Radical Views
M C Raj
Let us say Goodbye to Death Sentence 27 November, 2012
One of your family members gets killed. You want the killer to be killed. You think this is justice. Is this justice or revenge? 'An eye for an eye' will make the whole world blind.

IN THE world of administration of justice there is something called retributive justice. To kill someone can never be legitimized. Therefore, killers have to be killed. Murderers have to be murdered. Terrorists have to be terrorised. Sounds just and nice. When someone is sent to the gallows people are happy and say that ‘at last justice has been done’. Some even look up to the heavens and thank gods for having done justice to them. If the killer belongs to some other religion or community then there is distribution of sweets.

The United Nations has recently ‘subverted’ this notion of justice. It has passed a resolution against capital punishment. Though India is not a votary to this resolution, dissenting voices within India after the passing of the UN resolution indicate that not all is well with India’s advocacy of capital punishment. Leave aside the fact that India has a long history of killings as a caste duty. Leave alone the fact that the Bible speaks of its god sending his angel to kill all the first-born male children of the Egyptians as a punishment for enslaving the Israelites. Leave alone the fact the religions have been on a killing spree of those who did not subscribe to their ‘faith’ systems and refused to convert.

But humanity is not the same any more. It has matured and has developed more sophisticated forms of killing. It does not any more kill people for the sake of faith and religion. It kills only ‘criminals’. It has created legal systems that criminalize people and legitimize their killing. The authority to kill that was invested with god has now shifted to the state. An easy tool in the hands of the state is the technology of criminalization. ‘Call a dog mad’ in order to kill it. Criminalize a man and kill him. Legitimization for such killing by state is the legal system. If the legal system of a state decides that someone is a criminal then it has the authority to kill.

What happens if there are loopholes in the criminal justice system of the state? What happens if there are flaws in the investigation? What happens if some of the witnesses in the case are professionally paid witnesses? What happens if a particular interpretation of a judge was skewed? After all the people sitting in the chair of a judge are just human beings. They are not enshrined in the paraphernalia of infallibility.

It is enough for any judge to declare that it is ‘the rarest of rare case’. How many times did a judge make solemn profession that a particular case was the ‘rarest of rare’ and another judge in a superior court overturned it saying that it is not the ‘rarest of rare’ case and commuted death sentence. A clear indication that some judges can err even while sending some ‘criminals’ to the gallows!

Did we not witness how the trial of Saddam Hussain was conducted? The judges, the witnesses, the authorities were dancing to a tune. The tune was orchestrated somewhere in the US. Producer of chemical weapons, owner of biological weapons, schemer of terrorist plans against the US and what not? Everything was orchestrated to prove to the world that Saddam was a dreaded criminal and the world was in a terrible hurry to bury the ghost of Saddam at the earliest. A ‘rarest of rare’ criminal! But after he was killed there was no chemical or biological weapon and there was no terrorist plan. Who was a worse criminal? George Bush or Saddam Hussain? One the owner of rich oil wealth and other the usurper of that wealth! Criminals on the prowl! The more powerful state wins.

Let us agree killing is a crime. It is a crime, whoever does it. Can a crime be countered by another crime however similar they are? There will be no end to crime if one takes recourse to this type of logic. One killer is terrorist. Another killer is a state. Both indulge in organized crime. Both criminalize each other.

Can the likes of Ajmal Kasab be eliminated from the world by ‘awarding’ death sentence? That is what the state believes and professes. But the opposite can also happen and often it does. When one crime is countered by another crime the criminals get hardened. The state evolves much stronger mechanisms and determination to put down the ‘terrorists’. It enacts many laws giving free power to the police and army. The ‘terrorists’ on their part also evolve much stronger and harder mechanisms to counter the state. Do we end up eliminating criminals and killers or do we end up producing more of them? The history of the world shows that the state only helps in producing more killers.

Killing the killer! Does that lead to a better society with less number of criminals? Let us take the case of newspaper reports about road accidents. The ‘rarest of rare’ accidents take place on the roads. But does it deter people from overspeeding, from drunken driving, from careless driving and causing accidents? ‘It is the other who is the cause of the accident. It will never happen to me. I am different.’ More killer vehicles on the road and more killers on the road! But this type of killing is ‘not the rarest of rare’ cases and no death penalty for this crime.

The Christian society criminalizes Muslim society and vice versa. The Hindu society criminalizes the Muslims society and vice versa. The caste society criminalizes the Dalit society and the Dalit society criminalizes the dominant caste society. Tamils criminalize the Sinhalese and vice versa. Will there be an end to criminalization? If there is no end to criminalization there will be no end to killing either.

Who is the real killer, the one who shoots or the one who hires him to shoot? You catch the shooter and hang him. The schemer will hire another one, perhaps more efficient one to shoot. You can be happy at your helplessness, at your inability to get hold of the real schemer of killing. You cannot feel happy about someone like Kasab breaching all the security fortresses that you built. Suddenly someone appears and pricks your self-pride. Oh state, get at the roots of crime, the real causes.

Kasabs should not be allowed to live in society. But not after they kill people. They should not be allowed to live in society before they kill. This will mean that the state has to do a different type of exercise. If you have a set of criminals at the helm of affairs in governance you will inevitably have also another set of criminals at the bottom of affairs. Elimination is a very poor statement on governance. Let the killers live for the rest of their lives within boundaries determined by the state.

The UN is right. There should be no killing of anyone in the world. No more death sentences. Kudos to all the nations that voted for the UN resolution to abolish Death Sentence, as a deterrent of crime. It is disappointing that India is poor reactionary nation to have opposed this resolution. A nation that swears by non-violence and superior spirituality seems to have fallen flat on its value. Perhaps this is the true colour of Indian spirituality, a fake one at that. Let us say goodbye to Death Sentence.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
M C Raj is a human rights activist and award-winning author of more than 18 books. He has initiated a national campaign for proportionate electoral system, popularly known as CERI, in India. He is deeply involved in Climate Change issues.
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Usha Padiyar
Eliminate Death penalty ? No !The Legal provision is not just a means of revenge, as some people say, but is the (1)means to eradicate cold blooded and habitual and hardened murderers from society, so that the common man and woman can live peacefully and fearlessly. For it is known that many criminals caught by police at their life's risk,and sentenced to life imprisonment instead of Death, as the Author advocates, manage to escape from jail by cunning, or are bailed out by corrupt politicians before or without serving the term, like Charles Sobhraj.(2) Another reason is that quite a lot of money has to be spent to keep such a menace alive, at the Govt. and Tax payer's cost, for someone who may come out after 14 years and kill more people. Crores of rupees have been spent after AjmalKasab, to keep him alive and in good condition till he was executed at last. That much amount could have been spent to help and save our farmers who are driven to suicide due to poverty. Is it worth it ?(3) If the fear of the Death sentence is removed, then the State may not take an 'eye for an eye', but there will be more feuds for revenge,between the citizens, as fewer people will be afraid of going to jail, as some people at the bottom rung of our society regard it as becoming Govt. guests, being served with 'muft' Roti, Kapda aur Makaan.'(4)Finally, if we want to foster wicked and blood thirsty people at the cost of the simple, unarmed and defenceless citizens,then why have the Border Security Force for the protection of every country ? For they have to fire at the Enemy's soldiers, who seek to invade our nation and kill our countrymen, but are also human beings like us. Let us post some religious leaders there instead to preach to the invaders and avoid wars by awakening their conscience, and if that does no work surrender to them fr whatever result that will bring,in the name of ' Ahimsa'. But, remember that even Sri Rama had to slay Ravana at the end, when all the other methods to make him see reason, and stop harassing other people,as wellas to return Sita honourably to him without war, failed. Was it wrong of Sri Rama to kill Ravana ? There are two sides to the issue of Upholding vs banning the Death Sentence, and moderation has to be employed for taking the right decision.
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