Thanks to the current hot topic of the death penalty, the debate around the relevance of the death penalty has resurfaced. Many nations in the world have chosen to do away with the death penalty. However, India hasn’t gone that route yet. Although the law does say that the death penalty has to be awarded only in crimes which are of the “rarest of rare” kinds.
This post is NOT about the current hanging or his case or the judgement. This is about death penalty in general, and my views on the same.
On the one hand, I do agree that death does not punish someone, it just finishes the one.
It does not reform the person, because the person is not around anymore, to come out as a reformed one.
And I also believe that really, the only one who has the power to decide the last day on earth, for any individual, has to be the Almighty, and no one else.
So what is the sense of the death penalty, then?
The arguments in my head, in favour of the death penalty are some of these (and most are in the context of India):
1. Although the death penalty does not reform the person concerned, does it stop others from committing such rarest of rare crimes?? Does it help to dissuade others to go that route? If so, then it helps society.
2. The alternative to death penalty is life imprisonment. Which in the Indian context, often equates to a certain finite number of years. So, although there is a misconception that life imprisonment is all of a maximum of 14 years, the reality is that state governments are empowered to release a prisoner serving life sentence, subject to a minimum of 14 years served. Since this has often been misused for political motivations, there could be a lot of hardened criminals serving life imprisonment, who could be out on the streets again, in 14 years. Since their release is left to state governments, and which at any point in time, could have their own political motivations, it is always a risk to let a criminal of such a severe crime to be released so soon! And potentially go back to his old ways and be a threat to society!
3. Whether jail itself be reforming or could it become a place from where the criminal continues to run his crime?? In case of Indian jails, one has these doubts. So while on the one hand, he is perhaps waiting out 14 years, and hoping for a benevolent state government to be in place then, in the meantime, he could well have set up a full-fledged seat of his crime, within the confines of the jail. And perhaps even recruited several new members into his gang. Sad to say, but that is the perception I carry about Indian jails, in general. I am sure like the police, even jailers would have exceptions and some jails may be managed better than others. But we do worry about this possibility of abuse of jail itself!
4. Then there is our benevolent law that allows parole and what not. When the limelight of media is reduced, one never knows if some “cooperative” smaller court would grant such relief to the hardened criminal, and if that would also be a possible escape route?? For the right price, anything can be made to happen in India!!
5. So can such rarest of rare case criminals be kept in solitary confinement then? And could a law be passed to modify the fundamental ‘life imprisonment’ law, to say that such criminals of the rarest-of-rare cases are NOT eligible to be released by state governments, even if they are allowed to release other life imprisoned criminals?? Would that be a reasonable option? Perhaps.
With all these, I remain undecided.
Do you have stronger arguments leaning one or the other way? Do share them, in that case.