Why do we need the death penalty?
Mohammed Afzal, a man convicted for the terror attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, was sentenced to death in 2004 by the supreme court of India. After several appeals the court set the date for carrying out the execution to be on 20 October 2006. However the sentence has been stayed following a clemency petition filed by his family. The issue has raked up a huge public debate on whether Afzal should be hanged or not. Some say that since he was only a conspirator and not the actual perpetrator he should not be hanged. As an offshoot of this debate another one has cropped up on the necessity of the punishment itself.
Most of the western countries have already abolished the death penalty barring a few states in the USA. The reasons are many. Those who oppose death penalty say that the death penalty violates human rights, that it is not a good enough deterrent and that it has no place in a civilized human society. Other countries like India, Singapore and China still retain it.
There is a universal acceptance that any crime committed against any other member of the society should be punished. The punishment should be such that it serves both as a deterrent and to prevent recidivism. In any society a punishment is mainly intended to serve as an example for what would happen to those who commit that crime.
Now the biggest argument put forth by those who oppose death penalty is that it is not a deterrent enough to prevent crime. If we accept that this is not deterrent enough to prevent crime, then nothing other than the most barbaric of punishments will be sufficient. Would that be civilized then?
Coming to the point that a civilized society should not be resorting to capital punishment, I would agree completely. However what other punishment would you give to a person whose crime is against the same civilized society itself? The recent Noida serial killings are a case in point. Here, apparently the killers lured more than 40 kids to their house, murdered them, mutilated their body into pieces and then dumped them into a nearby drain. What would be punishment enough for these killers? What would be justice enough for the poor parents of these children? Are we to give these killers the same human rights for which they have shown utter contempt?
The main intention of any punishment should be to prevent the offender from committing the crime again. In India a life sentence means that the person can get out after 14 years. Imagine a serial killer, who has violated somebody else’s right to live, roaming around freely. What is the guarantee that he would not commit the crime again? Would you call that justice?
I agree that capital punishment shouldn’t be dished out to anything other than the most heinous and barbaric of crimes. But I am against the total abolishment of the capital punishment also. It should be dished out for such crimes like a heinous and brutal murder. I also feel that somebody convicted of a terrorist activity or who is proven to be a co-conspirator in a terrorist activity that amounted to large loss of life should also be given the death sentence. A prison sentence would only serve as a catalyst for further crimes to get these guys released. Remember the Kandahar hijacking episode? What happens when this guy goes and does something that kills 1000 more people? The next time we get this person are we still going to say that since we are a civilized society we wouldn’t execute this guy?
Tell me something, how is what the Allied forces did in Iraq and Afghanistan different from an execution? If you ask me, the current war on terrorism is a collective death sentence to the terrorists being executed by the same countries which have abolished capital punishment. The punishment is suitable enough in the eyes of the country that suffered their ravages. But the intellectuals would argue that it’s a war, and in war everything is just.
Some say that the arguments put forth by the supporters of capital punishment is more emotional than intellectual. My answer is that the crimes which deserve capital punishment itself are emotional. Obviously in such cases emotion would come into the picture. What would you do when you see a person butchering someone you love? Stand there and give him a sermon from the bible or rip his heart out? Wouldn’t this lead to a chaotic society if everyone started taking the law into their own hands? To avoid this we need to have a punishment that at least gives a feeling of justice having done to the victims. Sometime that’s the only source of closure for them.