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Crime and Punishment

TerritorialMale • • • Sunday, September 03, 2006
The Indian Supreme court upheld the decision of the Bombay High Court against Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit, thus condemning the sisters to the hangman's noose once again. Their only hope now lies in a Presidential pardon but it wouldn't be unreasonable to predict that a pardon is not forthcoming. The Indian judiciary is very conservative about capital punishment and so awards such sentences only on what it terms as the 'rarest-of-the-rare' cases. And this is one. Traditionally there is huge uproar among the diaspora when such verdicts are read out, especially within the Anti Capital Punishment fraternity - as was in the case of late Dhananjoy. It is occasion for heated debates in all forums but interestingly all is quite this time around. Have they switched loyalties?

The reason for their silence is understandable once the gravity of the crimes of these two 'blood' sisters sink in. Their modus operandi was to kidnap toddlers and play the agent provocateur and force them into petty crimes such as picking pockets. Then they snuffed out the lives of the very innocent hands that fed them once they outgrew their utility or became a risk factor. It is also horrific to learn that the sisters were initiated into crime by their own mother Anjana Bai, who at one time was the godmother of this gang which also included Kiran Shinde husband of Renuka. Anjana Bai died in prison. Kiran later turned approver and had all charges dropped against him. Evidence of 13 kidnap cases and 9 blood-curdling murders have been corroborated and confirmed.

So what were the acts that tipped the scales against these fiends? A verbatim quote from the paper version of The Telegraph is in order here.

"Santosh, barely 18 months old, began crying one evening at a bus stand. Fearing he would draw people's attention, the women banged his head against the floor and then an iron pole till he died.
Another 18 month old, Bhavna, was gagged, bundled into a handbad and dumped in the ladies' toilet of a cinema.
Two year old Naresh was starved and beaten to death because he would wail for his mother. Three year old Pankaj made an even bigger mistake. He would talk to passers-by about his parents. So he was hung upside down from the ceiling and his head slammed against a wall."
I am not a believer in capital punishment too, but even I must admit that I feel these murderous women have forfeited their chance of a good life.
These women didn’t show an ounce of remorse.

Another report informs that, “These women didn’t show an ounce of remorse. They are cold-blooded murderers. Kiran, who was also involved in the murders, was the only one who showed any emotion during the trial.”

'Not an ounce of remorse'. This was what caught my attention. The primary objective of the judiciary is reform. How will the judiciary evaluate itself on this case then? And how will it rate outcome of the verdict, which if executed, will incidentally be the first time a noose has been tied around women in independant India. Debates on capital punishment usually revolve around the following lines. Supporters claim that death-row inmates are not worthy of life or that it is inappropriate to keep them alive on tax-payers money or that death penalty acts as a deterrant. Abolitionists are quick to point out that no one has the right to another's life or that society has not benefitted much. Close, unprejudiced observation may highlight some truth about all of those claims.

As I have claimed before, I am not too convinced about terminal punishments, but my views vary from the average abolitionist. To my view, there are two kinds of victims in such instances. One, the primary victim and the other, a secondary victim. The person who has been violated and all his/her loved ones could be termed as primary victims. On the other hand the criminals' near and dear ones could be the secondary victims. It is not all that easy to be living with habitual killers and it is all the more difficult in a close-knit, conservative society like ours to come to terms with the fact that a kinsfolk has gone horribly astray. The penal laws of today have very tiny apertures and often fails to see beyond the victim, the accused, the crime scene and associated evidence. Sadly interpretations too have to be based on the pictures it shows.

The current penitentiary system in India is no less a joke. A typical day in prison would constitute morning ablutions, morning tea, meditation, then some menial labour, breakfast, some labour again, lunch, a siesta, a game of volleyball, supper, personal work and bedtime. Now most crime in India is committed to allay hunger and that most felons are by-products of abject poverty is a sad fact of India. So isn't prison-life in India perquisite enough to villainy? It is high time that this system is re-evaluated.

The daily ritual of survival is punishment enough on an average human being. It is so funny that a prison is a means of escape from that Biblical curse. The prison system should incorporate compulsory labour. New means of trade should be part of this system. A felon should be made to work not only for his own survival but also for others who have suffered in his/her hands. They could work as daily wage earners or for other forms of payment. A strict 'food for work' policy should be in place. Under the new system, prison life could be 14 hours of intense labour, 4 hours of personal time and 6 hours of rest. Further they should be made to pay routine compensation to primary and secondary victims from their own earnings. And further, life imprisonment should literally mean life imprisonment.

I can only hope my dreamy aspersions bring fruit someday. Until then, like someone said, "It is good to dream!."

Linked to Samantha Burns.
• • •7:16 AM• Permalink0 comments



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