Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Indecency ... continued

.... continued from Of Indecency and Afzal's Execution

The Hindu in today's editorial has again blown the trumpet of "human rights" of the convict facing the death penalty through T R Andhyarujina's  (Former Solicitor General of India) article "An execution most foul."

Supreme Court has in numerous cases condemned the delay in the execution of convicts. It reasons that the delay causes mental agony to the convict and dehumanizes him which is against humanity. The article upholds the views.

I fail to understand the reason of the Supreme Court about the delay in execution of the convict on death row. On the one hand, the Supreme Court says that the death penalty should be awarded only in the "rarest of rare" cases. The basis for awarding the death penalty as per the apex court through various judgments is that -

a) nature of the crime and its effect on society's conscience must be considered
b) alternative punishment of life imprisonment must be foreclosed
c) mitigating factors of the convict - age, mental health etc

This suggests to me that death penalty is awarded when as a society we decide, on the basis of the ghastliness of the crime,  that the convict cannot be rehabilitated in the society by any means and must forfeit his right to live. 

What human right can possibly surpass one's right to live? The conscience collective decides to deny the most fundamental right to the convict. The "rarest of rare" doctrine assumes that the convict is already dehumanized to the point that it is impossible to reinstate his humanity.Why then is the Supreme Court worried about the "dehumanization" of the convict?

Functionally, the delay works in favor of the convict and the society. First, the judiciary is prone to errors in judgement and is known to have executed innocent people or those who received punishment not commensurate with the crime. While the victim did not have an opportunity to save his life, the convict still does have it.

The delay also allows the society to mull over the effectiveness of death penalty. The slightest possibility that the society might decide to abolish it is in favor of the convict who deprived the victim of his life.

Psychologically, if the delay has any role to play, it is that the time lapsed between conviction and execution has the capacity to re-humanize the convict to feel the guilt of his crime and understand the value of the human life that he once took away from the victim. 

What is the point if the convict ends up dead without realizing the pain that his actions inflict on the victim's family or his own family?

Another question arises now - Should we believe that the convict is humanized enough during such period and be merciful to him by allowing him the possibility to rehabilitate in the society? I believe yes! Theoretically it is precisely the basis for any crime involving imprisonment. However, I don't want to indulge into that question. But I cannot buy the reasoning of the Supreme Court that the agony suffered by the convict due to delay is against humanity. 

My intent is not to question the moral, political or social correctness of death penalty. Rather my frustration stems out of the fact that in every such case, the intelligentsia turns a blind eye to the victim's family's horror while selectively projecting the agony of the convict and his family. 

Why isn't anyone bothered about the agony and mental state of the victim's family?


The Sinner said...

being a gandhi and praying for "execution"...!

Anand Shankar Mishra said...

Very humbly, I must say you have got it wrong.

My contention is not to favor or disapprove of death penalty. I wanted to reflect on the other side of the story, the victim's side through my eyes.