Thursday, September 1, 2011

Editorial, "ON DEATH PENALTY", in LAW ANIMATED WORLD, Vol. 7, Part 2, No. 16, 31 August 2011 issue


Of course there are unending arguments pro and con the wisdom and need of retention of death penalty in a civilized society. Though we have not discussed the issue in the columns of this journal so far, as far back as on 30 September 2006 (LAW, 2:18), we counseled moderation in regard to the capital punishment to Afzal Guru and pleaded for its commutation on a different ground and in the diverse context of our Indian Sarabjit Singh facing gallows in Pakistan, and suggested that “by statesmanlike conduct of the leaders and civil libertarians of both the countries an amicable settlement be arrived at so that ultimately the sentences on both him and Sarabjit be commuted first and later both of them be exchanged and thus set at liberty. We stick to it even now but insist that even in the absence of any exchange deal, Afzal Guru’s sentence should be commuted as a gesture of political goodwill towards the Kashmiri Muslims who are almost in one voice demanding the same. It is our conviction that whatever may be the case for retention of death penalty for gory and revolting murders for gain or of sadist orgy, it should never be executed in the case of political ‘criminals’ who stand entirely on a different footing. That the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu passed an unanimous resolution demanding the commutation of the death sentences on Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan, the convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, in the wake of the recent protest agitation involving the self-immolation of a young girl Sengodi for the cause and the equally intense protests by the people and civil society of the Kashmir Valley with even the then Chief Minister of J & K, Ghulam Nabi Azad, pleading for the clemency of Afzal Guru – by the way all of whom are sentenced on the basis of confessions to police officers which are never permissible evidence in the ordinary course of law and mainly on circumstantial evidence that is very doubtful and always wary – show that informed political opinion in our country also shuns capital punishment to political prisoners. So we also ardently demand that the Government of India commute these death sentences without further delay §§§