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Punishment is an effective tool for Crime Control

The ancient Tamil sage Thiruvalluvar has said, “The action of the King in severely punishing the criminals, who have committed heinous crimes like murder, is like a farmer removes the weeds for protecting the food crops.” (Thirukkural 550)

Are Punishments Necessary?

Crimes are reprehensible because they work against the fundamental principles of human co-existence. They weaken and even threaten to demolish the social structure. They repudiate the individual’s normal rights of peaceful living and cause undue suffering or even death. They become all the more repulsive when they are perpetrated deliberately in organized manner. Still worse is when the criminals are directly or indirectly supported by the very same persons who are duty bound to prevent them. It becomes exasperating beyond limits when the victims are made to suffer and the criminals go scot-free. In India, the situation has become exasperating; and is going terribly and irremediably awry.

Reforms are needed in all the areas relevant to criminal justice. While urgent, serious and sincere action is needed to improve the system, it has become a fashion to talk about softening towards the criminals in general, and doing away with death penalty in particular.

There cannot be two opinions about the need for proper investigation. The accused should not be humiliated or presumed to be guilty till their guilt is proved. The sadistic treatment of any person is not correct. Extenuating circumstances if any should be properly considered. While I concede all these, award of punishments play a vital role in ensuring good behavior in the society and preventing trouble.

In the administration of criminal justice, punishments are imposed not as a matter of revenge. It has nothing to do with the principle of ‘eye for an eye’.

Gandhi is quoted often, irrelevantly of course, that if the principle of eye for an eye is followed the entire world would become blind. Maybe it is true. But what has prevented the entire world from becoming blind is the fear and possibility that the principle of eye for an eye might be followed. In the absence of that fear, the world will have two sets of people; those, who enjoy gouging the others’ eyes out; and those who were blinded by them.

If a court imposes a punishment, including the death penalty, on a convict, it is not at all revenge; it is a professional, judicial, impartial, administrative measure taken in the larger interests of the society and to deter others from committing crimes.

The ancient Tamil sage Thiruvalluvar has said, “The action of the King in severely punishing the criminals, who have committed heinous crimes like murder, is like a farmer removes the weeds for protecting the food crops.” (Thirukkural 550)

Can We Afford to be Criminal friendly Beyond a Point?

A good government should take care of its law-abiding citizens first. For this, the criminals should be sternly dealt with.

The existing situation in India is just the contrary. Here the law-abiding citizens have to be on the back foot, while criminals usually have nothing to fear about.

Crimes are always increasing. Their number goes up everywhere; they are becoming more and more cruel and well-planned; the perpetrators are becoming richer and bolder; their roles are growing significant in all walks of life, mainly in politics and business. Any effort to reduce the criminals’ influence is met with stiff opposition by united political class. They don’t normally unite for any national cause with such spontaneity.

‘Minor girl gang-raped by village youth, burnt alive in UP.’1

‘Hyderabad techie gang-raped by cab drivers in luxury car.’2

‘Another minor girl gang-raped in moving car in Delhi.’3

Such heinous crimes occur with sickening frequency and alarming ease. They just get converted into uninteresting statistics. If at all, there would be some excitement for a few days and the men in power know very well that left to themselves they would die natural death.

At the same time, when the criminal politicians’ interests are involved, things move very efficiently and the ordinance path is taken! For how long the people of India are going to be taken for a ride by the politicians, for whom bad governance is a matter of their birth-right?

The pertinent question is why the entire system is not taken up for a serious review and reform at national level? Why remedial measures are not ushered in with the urgency the subject deserves?

Are Punishments Irrelevant?

A report on the Delhi crime begins with an observation: “Death penalty to four convicts in the December 16 gang rape case has failed to act as a deterrent as rapes continue to haunt the national capital.”

Interestingly an argument against the death penalty is that it has not been proven that death penalty can reduce the crime rate.

Don't ever say that death penalty has failed to prevent crimes. Say that the penalties are not quick enough, inclusive enough to prevent crimes.

People know that only in one out of a million cases deserving death penalty, it is actually implemented. In many cases it takes more than a decade to finish a case; and imposing a punishment stands disconnected with the crime in the minds of the people. How can anyone evaluate its relevance and effectiveness?

If organized crimes are exponentially increasing in number, there are several reasons. Some of them are:

a. Bad governance

b. Political interference

c. Money power of criminals

d. Apathy in investigation and prosecution

e. Inordinate delay in delivery of justice

f. Inadequate punishments

g. Flaws in prison administration

h. Misguided and mischievous propaganda of pseudo-human rights activists and pseudo humanitarian organizations

i. Cut-throat and profit-minded media, especially the visual media

Punishments duly implemented would definitely have a deterrent effect; only that can deter the people. But many people deliberately turn a blind eye to the real reasons and instead try to neutralize the system of punishment.

The legal system and criminal procedure are supportive of the criminals. Most of the human rights persons or men in power do not bother about the rights of the law-abiding persons and victims. In how many cases the criminals have come out in bail only to commit crimes?

The failure to impose reasonable punishments makes the affected people lose faith in government. In many cases they opt for settling the scores by themselves. Local gang-leaders and hired guns get good business and establish themselves with the help of dishonest politicians and officials. This leads to organized crimes in the society.

The truth is that the seriousness that should be attached to prevention of crimes in a civilized nation is not at all there in India. The people in power should be ashamed of the statistics on the subject; but they are busy with their personal agendas! Administration has become a plaything in their hands.

Aim at Zero Level

Only after umpteen filtering systems that allow criminals to escape by different routes, after becoming convinced about its justification, death penalty is imposed. After that there are so many chances to escape; and now you should find out if the criminal has any chance of getting reformed! Any hard-core criminal, who has absolutely no intention of reforming at all, can argue that he has a chance of reforming. This would virtually eliminate fear in the minds of criminals; and would also encourage them to expand their nefarious activities.

Why should you want to try the impossible task of reforming the hardened criminals, who has already seriously harmed or even killed law-abiding citizen(s), again at the cost of innocent members of the society? Who gave such a right to the men who happen to be in power?

There is a maxim that says, “Aim at the sky, if you want to shoot the bird sitting on the tree.”  Here the persons in power cheat the people by shamelessly talking things like about percentage of detection! And here a  ‘youth’ leader says that it would take 20 years to eliminate corruption in India!

The people are entitled to zero level crime and zero level corruption. If there is enough political will, it is not impossible.

The truth is that the seriousness that should be attached to prevention of crimes in a civilized nation is not at all there in India. The people in power should be ashamed of the statistics on the subject; but they are busy with their personal agendas! Administration has become a plaything in their hands.

There is a maxim that says, “Aim at the sky, if you want to shoot the bird sitting on the tree.”  Here the persons in power cheat the people by shamelessly talking things like about percentage of detection! And here a  ‘youth’ leader says that it would take 20 years to eliminate corruption in India!

The people are entitled to zero level crime and zero level corruption. If there is enough political will, it is not impossible.

K S Venkataraman

References:

1. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rape-gangrape-up-rape-uttar-pradesh-minor-gangraped-in-up/1/319682.html

2. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/drivers-rape-techie-in-hyderabad-arrested/1/319635.html

3. http://in.news.yahoo.com/another-minor-girl-gang--raped-in-delhi-043521203.html 

 

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