A few days ago, on a not too hot summer afternoon, I found myself reading an article on the death penalty as you do now. One of its assertions, in particular, caught my attention. It claimed that the death penalty is not and never has been about the severity of any crime. It’s probably easy to guess that the article wasn’t set against the backdrop of present India; nor was the author of it aware of the various degrees of crime we as people have managed to carve out. The death penalty in India has always been about the severity of the crime and despite our differences (for there are many), this has been one of those very few things even people on exact opposite sides of the spectrum could agree on.
The last time they were this united on anything was during the aftermath of the hanging of Afzal Guru back in 2013. It’s odd that something as morbid as this was what it took to band together opposing parties who’ve vowed never to agree on anything.
I wonder about all the things we could achieve if only we were brought together by a conviction as a band worthy as this was. Not the easiest of things to envision and an even harder result to achieve seeing how much we love being in the opposition just for the hell of it.
People usually partake in the spirit of revenge without the least worry about whether our actions following the crime could or would prevent the occurrence of another one. Our rage needs to be assuaged and to that providing, any semblance of justice to the victim takes a backseat. This could be why we passed an ordinance allowing the death penalty to rapists of girls younger than 12 without having thought it through.
Not even the best of societies with the most thorough judiciaries can claim to have not ever convicted an innocent. India can be attributed neither one of these superlatives which makes it even more shocking we would allow the chance, however small it may seem to us, of sending an innocent to the gallows. New evidence could very well redeem a convict in jail. Doesn’t really work out that way once he’s been hanged.
Appealing to the populist sentiment alone would hardly work as a deterrent since we now have as much objectivity as someone who’s lost his loved one to an act of violence, someone who certainly wouldn’t want the perpetrator to live out his days in confinement as opposed to his being executed. Trafficking in emotion is entirely antithetical to the very idea of law and therein lies the biggest argument against the death penalty because the entire concept of capital punishment hinges on raw emotion meeting reason head on and emerging triumphant.
Even as I write this, there’s still a part of me which wants people such as these to be stripped of all their rights and treated as filth. Should hardly be a human rights issue seeing as how they all ceased being human the moment they hurt a child.