‘Death penalty in India is a legal lottery’
Justice Ajit Shah says that it has been proven beyond doubt that death sentence does not serve as a deterrent against crime; the reason why two third of the world has abolished it all together. He explains the bizarre nature of how the death sentence in India is judge centric and how under the same set of circumstances, some have received the death sentence, while others have been given life and still others acquitted. Death sentence is judge centric with many judges having a history of doling out death penalties and other being kind. Death sentence is thus nothing but a ‘legal lottery’ where if you are lucky you get a lenient judge you survive, else you end up at the gallows. He talks about the caste and class connection to death sentence, where the lower castes and lower classes are usually the ones sent to the gallows because they cannot afford proper legal aid. He says that this discriminatory nature renders death penalty unconstitutional and that there is the need for a larger debate on the same.
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights held a public meeting with renowned law professionals on the 12th of February, 2013 in favour of the abolition of the Death Penalty in India.
This video was shot at a public meeting called by the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights [CPDR] to oppose the retention of death sentence in India on 12th February 2013 between 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. at Multi Media Room, St. Xavier’s College, First Floor, Mahapalika Marg, Mumbai, India.
The speakers at the meeting were Justice Hosbet Suresh [Retd.], Justice Ajit Shah [Retd.], Ms. Pushpa Bhave and Dr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry.
Produced by: Vivek Sundara; Camera: Satyen K. Bordoloi
Yug Mohit Chaudhry says that we are all aware of the corruption and dishonesty of our police force and their investigative methods. Yet, we need them. However, are we dumb enough to take their words and send a person to the gallows for it? In such a case, how is it that death sentence is not a crime? He gives stunning examples of how easy it is to manufacture circumstantial evidence and how in many cases police have not only manufactured circumstantial evidence, but also found witnesses to punish those who are nowhere connected to the crime at hand. He says that the law and justice thus end up as two very different things and that one should always strive for justice.
As a judge, I may have the power to give death penalty, but I do not have the right to do so: says Justice Hosbert Suresh (Retd.) as he deconstructs the judicial mindset that leads a judge to give death penalty. He says that the courts should understand what ‘rarest of the rare’ means and that when considering a death sentence, one should also look at the person and whether he is beyond reform. He says that it is the job of the proscecution to prove that a person is beyond reform and that should be the criteria, to consider death penalty. It is extremely dangerous when the government meddles with the judiciary and comes out with the criteria of ‘rarest of rare’ as it is doing now. In the end he says, that death penalty is nothing but murder by trial.
Miss Pushpa Bhave warns of the dangers of allowing the public to play judge, jury and executioner. She says that when the public hysteria for blood reaches fever pitch, it is bound to lead to miscarriage of justice. Political leaders, she says, have twisted ideas where the make people believe that cruelty is valour thus opposite death sentence, they construct as anti-national all for their own benefits. Death penalty she says, is nothing but a human rights violation and thus unconstitutional.
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights held a public meeting with renowned law professionals on the 12th of February, 2013 in favour of the abolition of the Death Penalty in India. Sadly, Afzal Guru was hanged in a unjudicial and undemocratic way two days before and though the meeting was not planned accordingly, the topicality of the issue was too much to ignore. The CPDR hence drafted a statement. Here Monica Sakhrani reads out a statement by the CPDR against the hanging of Afzal Guru and makes four demands from the Government of India:
a) Delhi Govt. hands over the body of Afzal Guru to his wife so that his family is able to perform his last rights.
b) the Government of India abolishes the death sentence as a method of punishment in India in all crimes.
c) till the death sentence is abolished, the Government of India declares a moratorium on executions and
d) the GoI forthwith signs and ratifies the United Nations second option protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights on the abolition of death penalty.