Justice or Revenge?
The death penalty has no place in a civilised society, but India seems to celebrate it. ndia’s ﬁrst execution of a death penalty in eight years, the speed with which Ajmal Kasab (the only perpetrator of the 26 November 2008 killings to have been held) was hanged after his mercy petition was rejected by the president, the public celebrations that erupted in a few parts of the country and the manner in which the media has reported/commented on the hanging in Pune on 21 November must force us to ask ourselves: Are we a society that seeks justice or prefers to lust for revenge? Kasab’s action four years ago on the night of 26 November was no ordinary crime. He was a volunteer in a plan to show India’s state and society that a small group could inﬂict largescale violence and wreak massive human tragedy in public places. Kasab himself was part of the two-member team that caused the largest number of deaths and injuries that terrible night, mowing down dozens of innocents on the concourse of Mumbai’s main railway station. The cold-blooded murders that Kasab committed may qualify for the Supreme Court’s “rarest of rare cases” criterion under which capital punishment could be handed down. Yet, has justice been served in the Mumbai killings by the hanging of Kasab? Is justice in general served by the death penalty? The full extent of the planning and execution of the Mumbai crimes is yet to come to light and the masterminds who recruited the foot soldiers remain free. There will be no closure with the death of Kasab and there can be no end to the grief of the hundreds of families who suffered that night. EPW has consistently argued against the continuation of the provision for capital punishment on India’s statute books (most recently the editorials on 15 May 2010 and 3 September 2011). The arguments against the death penalty are well known. First, the right to life of all citizens is inalienable and cannot be taken away by anyone, not even the state,...
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