India is one of the countries having a law on the capital punishment in rarest of the rare crimes. While the masses, in general, support this even demanding the death sentence in heinous crimes, there are few people, mostly constituting of human rights activists, who vehemently oppose this.
Recently, during the sentencing of the Nirbhaya rape case, this discussion again came to the forefront. While some voices targeted the common people seeing their demand for such punishment as a sense of inhumane revenge and even blood thirst, others including many famous lawyers chose to vilify the very intentions of the mother of the victim. But the question is, are these voices having legitimate concerns for the criminals, seeing a human within them, or are they driven by the single extinction of portraying the Indian public in accordance with their ideologies that mostly inclines towards anti-establishment and anti-stability in a society.
Feeling of angst and coming up with ‘an eye for an eye’ solution, as an immediate reaction to an unfathomable and unimaginable crime is part of a normal human behaviour. It is not a trait of a common man/woman to analyse tragedies when it is not personal. Probably, the larger Indian mass connects to the society and surrounding in a unique way unlike in other countries. Although the action of the justice system shall not include this immediate reaction, if the disappointment and concern continue for long, it is a sign of a collective sense of vulnerability in the minds of those who just want a peaceful life. Such emotions break the morale of the masses staggering the development of mankind as a whole. Thus, the law makers and the implementers must take up the responsibility of not letting a nation fall in that dark pit.
So, is ‘death sentence’ a solution? Putting it bluntly- in a short course of time, for cases as heinous as that of Nirbhaya or Disha- ‘Yes’. Though the purpose here is nowhere related to revenge but elimination of those from the society who put a question mark on the very definition of ‘human being’. Human rights of such criminals cannot be a reason to put the life of innocents under threat. For example- How many women would be comfortable with the thought that the juvenile in the Nirbhaya case could be walking past them with a changed name and a changed identity? Along with this, such harsh punishment is a short-term solution instilling a sense of fear in those who intend to commit brutality as counselling and lifestyle engineering can’t change a person as an immediate effect, whom the sight of blood and screams didn’t deter. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the agencies, authorities, and the judiciary to ensure that no innocent becomes the victim of an inefficient system. Even the mildest of the punishments for someone who is an accused but not a convict can come out like a scar on the conscience of the society of the most emotionally evolved beings.
Also, this cannot be a permanent solution. We must strive to achieve a society where human beings turning into brutes owing to the lust of blood, violence and crimes become a rarity. Prison reforms are just one of the many dimensions that need to be worked upon. Nurturing the roots of an individual holds prime importance thus. This root largely comprises the role of the family and education in someone’s life. Studies say that families with empowered women and sensitive men nourishes the mind of a child and makes it easier for him/her to embrace high ethics and values. Also, schools must introduce opportunities for healthy interaction amongst students, include practical and theoretical lessons on humanity and morality along with conventional subjects, build an environment for flexible thinking and inculcate in the young minds, a sense of belongingness towards mankind to help in building a future with sound mind and character. Immanuel Kant said- “In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others, in ethics he is guilty only if he thinks of doing so.” Changing the very root of a crime, the criminal thought process is what needs to be our long-term goal as a nation with its foundation laid on ethical value and principles.