The bleeding hearts were all over television on July 9 within hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a review plea to offer relief to the rapists-killers of Nirbhaya. The brutes had been sentenced to death by the trial court, and the verdict was upheld by the High Court and later endorsed by the apex court. The mood of the nation is that these convicts deserved what they have got, but the bleeding hearts have their own agenda — at times driven by petty ideological reasons, and at times by the need to keep their funders who see nothing good in India, in good humour. And they are crying their hearts out against the death sentence.
These so-called human rights activists, ranging from the likes of Amnesty International and including a bunch of disparate elements — from communalists like John Dayal to supposed Gandhians like Tushar Gandhi — are more concerned about the culprits than the victim who was brutalised and put to death. They are eager more to see these beasts ‘transformed’ and less to understand the pain of the parents of the young girl who died so horrifically. In a television show, Tushar Gandhi exposed his ‘humanitarianism’ when, while opposing the death penalty, said he “did not care” about the circumstances of the victim’s death. John Dayal, who was once the voice of the Catholic community in India, claimed that while his religion did not necessarily oppose capital punishment, he was doing so in his individual capacity on moral and ethical grounds. Was he saying that the Catholic faith, in not being opposed to the death sentence, has no moral or ethical compass?
Many of these people who are lamenting the apex court’s latest order were also seen to be arguing against the capital punishment to terrorist Yakub Memon — a few even went to the extent of calling the hanging as “judicial killing”. Some of these, additionally, had termed Afzal Guru, another terrorist who was hanged, as a hero. These are our neo-intellectuals, or more appropriately, pseudo-intellectuals. They feel for the convict, not for the victim. They prefer mercy to killers, but not justice for victims.
The bleeding hearts have two arguments for their abominable position. One is ideological: They are in principle opposed to the death penalty. And two, they believe that given a chance, even the most hardened criminal can reform. On the first, they say that capital punishment is unacceptable in a civilised society and democracy, though they reiterate that the strictest punishment must be given to the culprits. Well, the strictest punishment by law in the country for such crimes as the Nirbhaya one, is for the convict to be hanged till death. Therefore, the bleeding hearts want the death penalty to be scrapped off the statute books. The Supreme Court has already dismissed that option, and for good reason. Death sentence is given only in the ‘rarest of rare cases’, and not as a rule. Governments by and large, regardless of the party in power, have not found reason to reverse this situation through legislative interventions. As for the second, romanticised hope of reformation, the less said the better. Human beings can reform, not brutes of the kind involved in Nirbhaya’s rape and murder. In any case, assuming that they had not received capital punishment, they would have got a life term. How would it matter if they reformed or not in that situation? But their being alive and taken care of at tax-payers’ expense in prison for the rest of their lives, would be an outrage not just to the parents of the victim but to the nation’s collective consciousness. Reform is never a certainty for such beasts; death alone is a certainty.
There is a third argument: That the death penalty has not proved to be a deterrent in rapes-and-murders. It’s true that there have been other cases since the Nirbhaya one, despite changes that have made the laws more stringent, leading to the death sentence. By that logic, even Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code should be scrapped since it has not led to a drop in murder cases! Besides, we return to the issue of justice for the victims and their families. While the law must be a deterrent, it must also provide satisfactory closure to the immediate sufferers.
The real reason why the death penalty has not been the deterrent it ought to be, lies elsewhere: In the country’s slow-moving justice system. Take the Nirbhaya case. The gruesome incidence happened in December 2012. While the trial court was prompt enough — it delivered its verdict of death in September 2013 — and the Delhi High Court moved fast to ratify it in March 2014, the matter got stuck in the Supreme Court. In June 2014, the apex court stayed the execution on petitions filed by the convicts. But then it consumed three years before it upheld the sentence, and took another year to settle a review petition in favour of the victim. Even now the matter is not fully closed. The lawyer of the culprits has proposed to move a curative petition. It’s the judicial delays that provide a ray of hope to culprits, both present and potential. The more their legal teams can drag on the case, the more chances they have of securing a favourable verdict — which means at the very least a less quantum of punishment.
One can now only hope that the Nirbhaya matter is brought to a close at the earliest and the convicts are hanged at the earliest.