Death penalty

Published : Sep 21, 2012 00:00 IST



IT is alarming that a group comprising former judges appealed to the President to commute the death penalty awarded to 13 convicts on the grounds that in those cases the Supreme Court had committed a judicial blunder by ignoring the guidelines enunciated in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, in which the rarest of rare doctrine was laid down (Cover Story, September 7).

Courts have to consider the circumstances connected with the crime and the criminal before awarding punishment. The concept of rarest of rare cannot be put into a straitjacket. However, the judges appeal is not a happy trend and it may undermine judicial continuity and certainty. The solution is to abolish the death penalty in all but a few cases specified by an appropriate amendment of the statute.

SOME judges of the highest court have made a big mistake, and a serious review is required of procedures relating to the awarding of death sentences.

K.T. Thomas, a former Supreme Court judge, was one of the judicial panel members who awarded capital punishment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. He later commented that the death penalty was as brutal as murder and an act that was equivalent to sharing the vengeful mindset of the murderer, though it was protected by law.

Several countries still award capital punishment, and in some of them the kinds of offences that attract the penalty go beyond the pale.

IN India, trials go on endlessly, and the accused get bail, making a mockery of the system. When criminals roam free after getting bail, many victims lose faith in the legal system. Indias criminal justice system needs to be overhauled.

At the recently held sesquicentennial celebrations of the Bombay High Court, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh affirmed the need to improve court procedures. The Law Commission is considering how these might be improved in order to improve the criminal justice system. There should be live telecasts of court proceedings on the lines of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha television.

The death penalty should not be abolished as it gives people confidence in the legal system.

Team Anna

TEAM ANNA has done a tremendous job in mobilising a mass movement against corruption (New calculations, September 7). Now, its decision to join politics and fight corruption from within the system sounds calculated. Because the corrupt system soon develops resistance to old medicines/methods, there is a constant need to keep devising new ways of fighting it.

INDIAN democracy is at the crossroads owing to deficits in governance and to the reluctance of those at the helm of affairs to take a corrective course of action.

The decision of Team Anna to enter the electoral arena and the unambiguous call given by Baba Ramdev to his followers to eliminate the perpetrators of corruption from the political arena is definitely a dream come true for the countrys frustrated aam aadmi. This will be a much-needed alternative platform for the aam aadmi, who are fed up with the political culture of divide and rule, the growing criminalisation in politics, and the nexus between politicians and corporate houses, which has been true of all the mainstream political parties since Independence. India has to realise and accept the hard truth that it is not a global power and, instead of chasing such a title, should work harder to improve the lives of its poor.

Even though the Team Anna effect was quite visible in the Hisar byelection, the political parties will never accept the truth unless Team Anna enters the electoral process and directly contests elections. However, the success of the anti-corruption movement must be measured not in terms of electoral gains but in terms of its ability to set the political agenda. Bad politics can only be countered by good politics and not by shunning the democratic system.

THE Lokpal Bill issue made the headlines once again after a lull. Team Anna revived the anti-corruption agitation by going on a fast at Jantar Mantar and Baba Ramdev called for an all-out war on the Congress. Their demands exposed their real motives.

Although the agitation evoked enthusiasm from their supporters and drummed up media attention, it, sadly, did not come up to ones expectations like last year. The movement against corruption has lost its sheen owing to allegations levelled against some of its leading members.

Also, Team Annas and Baba Ramdevs crusade against senior leaders of the ruling alliance without coming out with solid evidence has failed to cut ice with its supporters and the government. Keeping this in view, Team Anna announced plans to join politics and float a fourth front before 2014.

This could be a move in the wrong direction and may only lead to self-destruction. There are examples when a movement that started out as apolitical turned political only to end in a fiasco.

K.R. Srinivasan SecunderabadHealth care

THE Frontline article Managed care ( September 7) and some other reports I read makes me conclude that the Indian state is slowly abdicating its responsibility to provide its citizens with health care. If a state is really egalitarian, it should play the role of provider, not middleman.

The state should not be compared to private enterprise. Persons and organisations that are more powerful than the state are dangerous to it. The enterprise culture is a bane to modern democracies.

According to the economist Paul Krugman, with a socialised health care system, the U.S. can provide all its citizens with satisfactory health care at 40 per cent of the present expenditure. This is applicable to India also. The 19th century German pathologist Rudolf Virchow said: Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing more than medicine practised on a larger stage.

The Indian polity should be more visionary and not be a passive follower of World Bank jargon.

Sir Chimanlal

FRONTLINE is a treasure trove of well-researched backgrounders (A neglected hero, September 7). History gets rewritten, with an astoundingly blunt sense of perspective, thanks to the trenchant analyses of A.G. Noorani.

At present India is at the crossroads. Everything seems to be going terribly wrong. Sir Chimanlal Setalvads utterances sound prophetic. B.R. Ambedkar was also prescient. The condition in the Cripps proposals about a consensual approach to the Constitution was sagacious. It is indeed a pity that the all-India federation envisaged in the Government of India Act, 1935, never came into being. Tej Bahadur Saprus agonised phrase about the Congress, inebriated with power, has haunted the Indian polity ever since.

Noorani rightly traces the birth of the political high commands in India to the shooing away of the parliamentary system by the Congress Ministries of 1937. As a direct sequel, representative democracy has fallen into total disrepair today. Democratic governance, separation of powers, autonomy of investigators, and transparency are all mocked at.

Noorani may be right about Gandhijis disenchantment with the foreign mode of governance. Nehru was not likewise disenchanted; he was, at worst, ambivalent about the liberals in other folds. His statement about the Attorney Generals invincibility is a case in point.

The Indian political apparatus has zero tolerance for the much-needed liberal outlook. The mantra that the Congress represented everybody is a perennial fallacy.

The Games

THE coverage of the London Olympics in Frontline was excellent (Run of legends, September 7). Participants from many countries created records. I am happy to learn that the host country had excellent management.

Indians were happy just to utter the slogan: Not to win but to participate.

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