The death sentence has not been abolished in India but the judiciary awards it only in the rarest of rare cases (“India’s muddled thinking on punishment,” Sept. 16). In the Delhi gang rape and murder case, the fast track court awarded the death penalty to all the four accused for perpetrating a heinous and barbaric crime on a hapless woman. The death penalty is meant to rid society of barbarians. It is welcome.
Although the article is academically well argued, it suffers from a fundamental flaw. It does not say what could be the alternative. Is the writer for sentencing criminals to a lifetime in prison? Will it reform the prisoner, given the type of prison system we have? Is it not premature to talk about the abolition of the death penalty without putting prison and police reforms in place?
As K. Parvathy rightly points out, ordinary people are moved by even an actor crying on the screen (Sept. 16). Which is precisely why they should not have a decisive say in the criminal justice system. Ensuring the conviction of offenders is a national duty. Crying for their blood is not. One also wonders whether justice would have been this swift in the Delhi gang rape case if even one of the criminals belonged to a well-to-do upper class. Justice seems to be swift and sharp when the offenders are poor.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that the buck stops at our table. The Delhi rape victim would have been alive had ordinary citizens who passed by her after she was thrown out of the bus stopped and helped. She lay on the road while people in their big cars slowed down and sped away. Now they say justice has been done.
There is no need to insist on a clear-cut definition of the “rarest of rare” category. We must have faith in the judiciary and let it determine it on a case-by-case basis. Secondly, social contract gives the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force. It is, therefore, justified for the state to take a person’s life if he poses a threat to law-abiding citizens.
Lastly, the concept of “deterrence” is itself flawed. It is doubtful if a person contemplating a crime ever thinks of the punishment. The death penalty should be used sparingly for those criminals who are beyond reform.
I was surprised on reading a letter which expressed the hope that the four convicts will lead transformed new lives if treated leniently and spared the death sentence (Sept. 16). I am certainly not for keeping them in high-security prisons built and maintained at the expense of taxpayers.