In Re: Death Penalty

Religion is complex; difficult to comprehend; often open to interpretation. Which religion considers death to be a penalty and which religion considers death to be an award? It can be reasonably concluded Criminal Law of India considers death to be a punishment. In recent times, there have been several Judgments of the Supreme Court of India that have chosen life over death for the accused. It has been pronounced that the accused must stay in jail for twenty-five years/thirty years without any chance of freedom from jail time. It has even been pronounced that the accused shall never be released from jail. There are several articles, reports that support the Supreme Court on this count. No matter what the accused may have done, these articles and reports do not believe in ‘eye for an eye’. It does raise complex questions. Let us assume that we do approve that the accused, at times, must be punished. Criminal Law of India does hold lifelong jail and death to be the gravest forms of punishment. Which one is harder? From the emotional perspective of the family of the accused, on one count they must deal with the accused facing the seriousness of jail every living day; on the other count, they must deal with the accused gone forever. Either way it is impossible to calculate which event would have helped the emotional healing. It is bound to be different for different accused and their different families. If the accused can expect to be released in twenty-five/thirty years, that punishment would be less harsh than death because freedom can be hoped for. The complex question however is, between lifelong jail and death which one is harder? From the financial perspective of India, on one count India must bear the expenses of keeping the accused healthy till he dies a natural death; on the other count, the expenses are rendered minimal. Can we afford to keep several accused healthy for years and years even when the question can put to an easy close? From the philosophical perspective of the Judges, on one count they must showcase the finer nuances of India. We must believe in the healing powers of love and not in the endless battle of anger/revenge. Judges cannot project themselves to be Gods or Goddesses choosing the final word for the accused. On the other count, previously, many Judges have chosen the penalty of death in ‘rarest of rare’ situations. Judges still have that power. And if forty years give birth to a fresh forty years of interpretation, the question does arise whether what was rare previously is not rare anymore or did those Judges interpret incorrectly? From the most important perspective of the victim and the victim’s family, on one count they shall bear the intellectual burden of understanding that the accused and the victim were born different and thus must face different results; on the other count, the victim and the victim’s family shall witness what is fair, if fair is interpreted to be equal and equal is interpreted to be the same result. There are further unanswerable questions. Are psychological assessments enough for Supreme Court Judges to scientifically asses? Do we believe in afterlife? If we do, shall the accused, if hung to death, resurface in a different body, with the same barbaric mind? In recent times, some Supreme Court Judges, either sitting or retired, have expressed their concern about the survival of death penalty as a solution. It had taken many years for India to comprehend sexuality and it is not over yet. Without doubt, it shall take many years for India to comprehend life of a criminal and it has only had a humble start. I shall end this with a short story and a question. Amongst all the Judges, Supreme Court has ever witnessed, Chief Justice Ray lived the longest; for ninety-nine years. I personally observed him for twenty-four years and ten months. How did Chief Justice Ray outlive not merely The Twelve Judges on The Kesavananda Bench but all who were ever a Supreme Court Judge? It is my request to the Supreme Court that all while you let go of death in case after case, to not only explain why those cases are not ‘rarest of rare’, but also explain whether death is a penalty or an award.