As India celebrates its independence, for Dhanonjoy Chatterjee it is end of freedom, life. He has also expressed a desire to donate his eyes and kidneys after he dies. His last wish is to hear hymns to calm him down as he walks out from his cell and soothe his pain while the hangman tighten the noose around his neck. Incidentaly, it is also his birthday. Dhanonjoy was on the death row for nearly fourteen years on charges of raping and killing of teenage schoolgirl. For at least ten of these years, his appeal for clemency was pending with the Bengal governor with no action taken. Finally his lawyers had the Supreme court direct the Bengal Govt to clean up its act, which ironically resulted in his death sentence being confirmed and carried out. Now, you might ask me is this topic is relevant to me? Yes it is, to the all living mankind.
Is it incorrect to argue against capital punishment by taking up a specific case, in particular the case of a criminal like Chatterjee? Yet, unless one can prove that even a man like Dhanonjoy Chatterjee has a right to live, one can’t argue against capital punishment. The death of a citizen cannot be necessary but in one case: when, though deprived of his Freedom, he has such power and connections as may endanger the security of the nation.
Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer, who was honoured with the Magsaysay award for the prison reforms she wrought while she was commissioner in Tihar Jail. She spent a few years with some of the most hardened and dangerous convicts in India and for lack of a better world, still has the “humanity” to pose these questions. Some excerpts from her article:
“Any act, which is gruesome and kills another person in mind and body, has to be punished. This has been the rule since time immemorial. Except that its methodology has been changing. We have seen and heard of lynchings, hackings, hangings and many other brutal ways considered to be meeting the ends of justice.”
Dhanonjoy Chatterjee, the man who is going to be hanged on saturday is certainly a terrible man, I would not like to make his acquaintance, and if he moved into the neighbourhood, I shall probably want to know and I shall probably move out. Peter Bleach, the arms runner, was lodged in the cell next to Dhanonjoy in Calcutta jail and wrote a column about him for Hindustan Times from Scarborough, UK. The picture he painted was that of a quiet man, who did not know the intricacies of the case against him, the law. He also claimed that the case against Dhananjoy was based on purely circumstantial evidence and he would not have been sentenced to death had he not been a poor and illiterate man. I am inclined to agree to this fact. I read one article few days back “A woman is raped in the Indian capital every 24 hours”, but one man is hanged in 14 years!
The obvious reason is to eradicate crime. It costs a government less to execute criminals rather than to have them imprisoned.
Our judicial system is haunted by the demon of error – error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die. In a world where there is immense confusion of where to draw the line between right and wrong, how can capital punishment ever be fairly served? No jury or judge can take the role of God and decide who is worthy of life and who isn?t.
Is the death penalty itself an act of ?justice?? To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice. Is it ?correct?? Two wrongs do not make a right. Is it fair to take an eye for an eye?
There is no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. Thus, in conclusion, I am not encouraging crime or i do not support criminal. I feel that people who have committed a crime worth the capital punishment should be given a life sentence , or if the crime is uniquely cruel and brutal, the person guilty should simply be isolated from society. Justice allows for mercy, clemency and compassion, not violence.
I wish you all my dear readers a Very Happy Independence Day!
-Ashley Aranha, Bangalore.
Author: Ashley Aranha- India