The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's tweet over Afzal Guru (Sept. 1), who is on death row in the Parliament attack case has evoked strong reactions. The main issue is that the government has to take a stand on capital punishment and that it must be a consistent decision right through the country. The problems arise when there are delays which could be avoided.
Even in the U.S., the death penalty exists in certain States and abolished in others, but convicts have to spend their life time in prison even if the death sentence is commuted. In our country, a life sentence, normally limited to 14 years, can be completed within 10 years, for a host of reasons including good conduct and gestures of goodwill made on leaders' birthdays. Thus, a 20-year-old contract killer can get out at 30 for a murder which may not come under the definition of the “rarest of rare” cases. We are a young democracy functioning under serious constraints because poverty, corruption, indiscipline and caste, communal and linguistic factors often hamper its smooth functioning. Abolition of the death penalty and other such idealistic objectives are appropriate only for advanced countries.
The ongoing capital punishment versus life imprisonment debate will be inconclusive and endless given the diversified notions on the subject. Although the quantum of punishment must correspond to the gravity of the crime, the death penalty, from a more civilised and mature society's perspective, must be relied upon as the rarest of rare cases from a humanitarian angle. In the Rajiv Gandhi and Parliament attack cases, the offence is one of conspiring against and waging a war against the Indian State, which goes well beyond the mercy of commutation of death penalty. Perhaps Mr. Abdullah's attempt to equate Afzal Guru's case with the Rajiv Gandhi case is nothing more than scoring a brownie political point. We must also take into account that it was made on a social media forum. If more such pleas are entertained, we may end up having to buckle under pressures of varying hues — political, social, regional and linguistic — imperilling the very course of justice.
Venkatesh N. Muttur,
The unprecedented resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the Rajiv Gandhi case seems to have had a ricocheting effect across the nation. Mixing communal politics with a national issue is a dangerous portent. As the head of a State, Mr. Abdullah should have been a little more circumspect.
If everyone starts disagreeing over issues on the basis of caste and religion, we cannot progress as a nation. Would the Tamil Nadu Assembly have passed a similar resolution had the murdered person been a Tamil leader?
Jose Varghese M.,