The death penalty, though archaic, is relevant today (“A blot on progressive societies,” Oct. 23). It is reserved for heinous and diabolical crimes. Advocating the human rights and dignity of the perpetrators of heinous crimes somehow implies that their rights are more important than the rights of the victim and the collective conscience of society. The death penalty is the ultimate and the most potent deterrent available to any criminal justice system. The retention of this deterrence is necessary, under astute safeguards.
I started my legal career by moving bail in a murder case. When my office clerk was shot dead, I was appointed the special prosecutor in the case. Much later, after I left to join films, my one-time junior was killed on the road leading to Paramakudi courts.
I practised law in Mudukulatur where five people were shot dead by police in 1957. I had appeared for three of them in murder cases in committal proceedings. I was just 27 but I felt that at least three of the five who were gunned down were a threat to life and safety. It takes time to learn ethical and moral realities meant for the betterment of society.
We avoid committing crimes due to the fear of punishment. At least five per cent of our population does not commit murder due to the fear of death. It would be wise to leave the law as it is to keep the number of murders under control.
When we argue for the abolition of capital punishment in the name of progressiveness, we should understand that in the same progressive society, women are gang raped and terror attacks killing innocent people take place. Society has a right to punish a person who disturbs the social order brutally. An eye for an eye may turn the whole world blind but in the name of dignity of life, we should not become blind to the plight of victims who die for no fault of theirs.
Deba Prasad Bhanja,
Monica Vincent has analysed the death penalty in great depth. The article is good to read from the point of view of offenders sentenced to death. But the article has not seen matters from the point of view of victims and their relatives.
The death penalty infuses fear and brings down the crime rate. The argument that the right to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights holds good for victims too.
The elimination of capital punishment from the statute books of European countries cannot be a sound reason for abolishing it in Asian countries. At a time when there is a growing trend in hired killings, honour killings, crime against women and sexual abuse of children, we should retain the death penalty.
It is worth remembering the innocent victims of crime while propagating the human rights of condemned offenders.
S. Pon Senthil Kumaran,
The article was an excellent overview of the state of death penalty worldwide. It ends with a brief quote by Justice Arthur Chaskalson.
The judgment from which it is taken is the State v. Makwanyane and Another (June 1995) case, one of the greatest on death penalty jurisprudence worldwide. Another great judge whose pronouncements in that case are worth reading is the late Justice Ismael Mahomed.