While the first part deals with systemic failure and which we will look at under that heading, the part about “…caste and class connection to death sentence, where the lower castes and lower classes are usually the ones sent to the gallows … this discriminatory nature renders death penalty unconstitutional …”, leaves us puzzled.
Apart from the fact that this is exactly what Ashis Nandy said or tried to say at Jaipur and has been slammed, I personally can’t understand where the Justice comes from or where he intends to go.
Does he suggest that there should be a quota system for punishments? That every court should have a daily updated list (like ones supposed to be displayed in Ration shops) of how many of each caste, community, religion have been punished for the year? That in case a group’s percentage is lower, more persons of that group should be prosecuted?
Or does he suggest that since upper caste and class criminals are able to get away (his contention, not mine), we should let the convictions slide based on caste or class? Instead of Not one innocent shall be punished, we move on to Let all criminals walk away?
However, this (part) of the statement by Justice Shaw is being hailed as a big YES to the anti-death punishment advocates, while Ashis Nandy is being hounded, physically threatened and is in danger of losing his freedom if convicted by courts.
Opinions of the convicts, their families and people comprising their support structure is the other individual kind. We are repeatedly told that the Veerappan gang routinely deny any part in the landmine blast which killed 22 people and they claim they are innocent.
Thinking about it, has any convict ever accepted his crime - especially killers? From Hitler to Pol Pot, Osama to Kasab, Anders Breivik to Oscar Pistorius, every one who committed a crime has denied it.
Admission to crime only happens in nations with plea bargain as part of their criminal justice system. It happened recently with David Coleman Headley, and Anand Jon in the US.
In India the approver system is somewhat similar, but due to its nature and the mindset of policing agencies, it is only the fringe participants who turn approver, more like a police informer, a stool pigeon than anything else.
In effect, under Indian conditions, a criminal has better chance of getting away or serving lesser sentences if he doesn’t admit to criminal activity rather than bargain for a lesser offence. This goes for their family too.
Pretty much of what the other support structure of these convicts, namely their lawyers, and activists say can be covered under activists heading.
But there is a unique defence by the political leader Vaiko that one of the Veerappan gang convicted of the landmine blasts has never met Veerappan and so his punishment is wrong. Now is that a defence or a proof of innocence? As far as we know, Ajmal Kasab has never met David Coleman Headley. Does that mean Ajmal Kasab is innocent or that David Coleman Headley has been wrongly convicted?
Taking it further, if Al-Qaeda carries out a terror attack after 5 years with new recruits, those fledgling terrorists would never ever have met Osama Bin Laden. Will that mean that those newly recruited terrorists cannot be convicted of terrorism?
That ends part 3. In the following we will take a look at the contention of the activists, systemic failure and international groups and treaties.
(image courtesy Rob Rogers @ post-gazette.com)