It has become common for intellectuals to question the relevance of the death sentence, whenever the court awards it (“Why capital punishment must go,” Oct. 3). Their main argument is that the death penalty has failed to deter people from committing heinous crimes. Just because a punishment does not prevent some perverted criminals from committing brutal crimes, should we stop punishing them?

P.V.R. Reddy, Bangalore

There is nothing in the Delhi gang rape case verdict to suggest that the judge awarded the death penalty only to satisfy the collective conscience of the community. I agree we need to amend age-old laws, develop scientific methods of investigation and speed up the justice system. But when someone is proved guilty on the basis of strong evidence, he should be awarded the maximum punishment under the law.

Pardeep Kansal, Bhiwadi

Satyabrata Pal claims that people who are victims of society’s inequities are bound to be brutal in their behaviour. Are there not millions who face similar inequities? Are they all taking out “a lifetime’s frustrations” on their victims? To claim that such brutality nauseates only the middle class is unacceptable. I am fairly sure every woman and man on the streets was just as nauseated over the Delhi gang rape.

Pavithra Srinivasan, Oxford

This refers to the contention that the brutality that brings a crime into the ambit of the “rarest of rare” is bred into the offenders’ lives. The justice system cannot give a verdict based on the past life of the accused and their societal rejection. Courts cannot be lenient to some offenders because compassion has never touched their lives.

Muralidharan Raju Iyer, Chennai

The author agrees that the gang rape was bestial but says “men forced to live like brutes will kill like brutes.” Do all poor people have a tendency to be brutal? Are we going to take a lenient view of heinous crimes on the basis of the socio-economic conditions of culprits?

P. Saseendran, Koyilandy

I agree the Delhi gang rape convicts were products of our community and did not have a decent life. But under no circumstances can the crime they committed be explained. If it was true that judges tend to be influenced by the “collective conscience of the community,” the juvenile accused would also have got the death penalty. If the death penalty is a barbaric anomaly, the crime and the way it was committed weren’t civilised either.

Shubhda Sharma, Delhi

By arguing that the Delhi gang rape culprits lived in difficult circumstances and therefore they were brutal, the author has overlooked many poor people who live with human values and morals in similar circumstances.

Arathy S. Nair, Kottayam

I loathe violence. I consider vengeance a crude biological instinct. That said, there is a distinction between provoked and unprovoked violence — between communal riots and what happened in Delhi last year.

Srikant Sekhar Iyer, Bangalore

A person who is guilty of taking another person’s life has no right to live. This simple fact ought to rule both governance and law. Intellectuals whose hearts bleed for murderers perhaps deserve a special place in heaven. On earth, we must uphold order and justice.

S.R. Madhu, Chennai

Death is not the answer for a crime committed by a person. Most European nations have realised this. India should take steps to amend Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code by abolishing the death penalty and incorporating “life imprisonment till death in prison” for those convicted for heinous crimes.

K.V. Ramana Murthy, Secunderabad

I am a supporter of capital punishment in the rarest of rare crimes but the way India implements it is wrong. Of late, media driven trials/ justice are gaining importance. In Hyderabad, we saw the elite, educated class gathering last December with candles to protest the Delhi gang rape. But when a five-year-old badly injured rape victim was brought in to Niloufar hospital, no candlelight vigil group came out to support her as there was no TV coverage. This is India.

Judish Raj, Hyderabad

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