Death penalty shouldn’t be politicised: BJP MP

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) Urging that the execution of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case convict Yakub Memon shouldn’t be politicised, BJP parliamentarian Udit Raj said on Thursday that the issue of judicial accountability more than the death penalty needs to be discussed.

“Has anyone, including the media, ever questioned the political role played by judiciary? There is no point in blaming the government for everything. The citizens of this country have no say over judges’ appointments. There should be a debate on death penalty that goes beyond Yakub Memon or any other individual,” he said during a debate on ‘Death Penalty and Indian Democracy’ organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

The BJP leader said there were more crucial issues like poverty, unemployment and malnutrition that needed to be discussed, rather than Memon’s execution.

“The hanging of Yakub Memon needn’t be politicised,” he said.

Earlier, former Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said there was a clear political bias in handing out death sentences.

“There is a contrast in play. While the death sentences of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have been commuted, the government has been fast in executing (parliament attack case convict) Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon. In India, politicians decide who should be hanged. Beant Singh’s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana’s death sentence was not commuted but his execution was stayed on the day he was to be hanged. The call was taken by the then home secretary on March 31, 2012, when political parties had declared a Punjab bandh. Even the Punjab chief minister had come down to Delhi to meet the president on the issue,” Karat said.

Pointing to the case of Afzal Guru, Karat said, “He didn’t even get a chance after his mercy plea was rejected.”

Karat said the voice of Kashmir was completely ignored while hanging Afzal Guru.

Voicing similar sentiments, Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar said the death penalty needs to be abolished and it can’t prove a deterrent.

“We have no right to take anyone’s life, be it a prisoner or a terrorist,” said Aiyar.

He said there was “arbitrariness” in the decision-making process at all levels.

“The victims have human rights. There is no justice if you hang one person and leave out 10 others in the Mumbai blasts case,” the Congress leader said.

Aiyar said he fully endorsed Karat’s view on doing away with the death sentence.

Karat earlier mentioned that a resolution was passed by the Karachi Congress in 1931 against capital punishment and that it was part of India’s freedom movement.

Reacting to this, Aiyar said, “I am in step with Karat here and a step ahead of my party on the issue of capital punishment. Our party needs to be reminded about our stand in 1931”.

Aiyar said the process of awarding capital punishment was vitiated by “arbitrariness and prejudice and is dependent on individuals holding the post of president, home minister or supreme court judges”.

Talking about a research project on death penalty initiated by the National Law University, researcher Shreya Rastogi said the findings showed that the odds were stacked against economically and socially weaker prisoners, who are condemned to death.

“Our findings were quite astonishing. We found that 75 per cent of the prisoners are economically vulnerable and are not in a position to hire lawyers. Another aspect was that 75 per cent of the prisoners belong to backward classes or religious minorities,” Rastogi said.

The survey was conducted among 373 prisoners from June 2013 to January 2015 and the final report will be out this month, Rastogi added.

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