Retributive justice

With the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the last of the ten gunmen who unleashed horrific violence on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, has been eliminated.

Convicted on a slew of charges including murder, waging war against the state, possession of explosives, etc, Kasab was given the death sentence by every court that tried him. Presiding judges affirmed and re-affirmed that this was a case that fell under the ‘rarest of rare’ category. Kasab’s road to the gallows was cleared with the President rejecting his mercy petition. His role in the attacks was never in question, having been captured on camera walking cockily into Mumbai’s CST station and spraying bullets into a crowd of innocent people in a cold-blooded manner.  Over 650 witnesses testified against him. However, whether he should be hanged has been the subject of heated discussion.
 Kasab’s execution is being hailed as justice done and for providing closure to the victims. It has prompted celebrations in various parts of the country. 

However, one wonders whether justice has been done by hanging what was a mere pawn in the conspiracy. Besides, has it brought India closer to securing its citizens or preventing similar terrorist attacks? There is little evidence after all to indicate that hanging a criminal deters others from committing similar crimes. Proponents of the death sentence often argue that implementing it satiates the human need for revenge. But frighteningly, Kasab’s execution has not satiated this rather macabre need. It has energized a clamour for Afzal Guru’s head.

This thirst for retribution must end. As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out an ‘eye-for-an-eye’ approach to justice results in all the world becoming blind. India must distance itself from this violent approach to justice by abolishing the death penalty. That it is determined to persist with retributive justice is evident from the fact that early this week it voted against a draft resolution in the UN that called for abolition of the death penalty. India has sovereign right to frame laws but it must use it in a manner that makes its justice system humane, modern and forward-looking.

The death penalty is based on a belief that we human beings cannot reform. Is that what democratic India truly believes?  By hanging on to the death penalty, India is endorsing the path of violence. Kasab was the first criminal to be hanged in almost eight years in India. He should be the last to be executed in this country.  
 

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