“Hang till death” is one of the most popular phrases used in Indian court room dramas today. Hanging is the favorite mode of execution in India. This gets us to the most argued matters of the past decade which has made it to every newspaper, TV channel and even to high school debate competitions, “whether capital punishment should be given or not”.
Death penalty is given only for heinous crimes like rape, child sexual abuse and terrorist activity in India. Majority of our public believes that death penalty is a must for such offenders, as what they have done is extremely immoral as well as unacceptable and they do not deserve to be alive! I agree, but think of it this way, death is not a prolonged suffering, it is one time.
It takes maximum 14 minutes for a person to die after he/she is hanged. We know very less about the pain one feels in those 14 minutes. Sometimes the neck breaks, sometimes it doesn’t and the person strangles to death. Some even urinate and defecate on the spot in front of the witnesses. In almost all the cases so far this entire scene is so hard to look at that the witnesses have to be helped out of the room and rushed to the hospital!
Now, the suffering here is visual, you can see a person struggle to make it past death but what is not visible but far more disturbing is watching someone not being able to make it past life….that 14 minute period is not at all comparable to what the offender has left behind, the victim who has to live with the agony of rape or the parents who have to bear the pain of loosing their only son in a bomb blast and have to deal with all those nightmares, try to suppress the pain with counselling and post trauma therapy. The person who is prey to the crime has to suffer every single day until he/she breathes. The one who caused the pain is dead but the affliction lives.
The perpetrator’s death didn’t end the pain nor did it deter other criminals, then what did it do? Gave him death and set him free, leaving the victim with a life sentence which cannot be escaped from. Instead the offenders should have made to live every moment with regret of the damage they caused. They should feel the stress and trauma they sent across.
Humans consider death as the ultimate and the worst thing to happen to someone if it does not happen naturally. There are a few things which I wouldn’t say are equal to death, but can break the offender and still keep him alive, like the reformative theory which makes the offender realize the responsibility and of his act and drowns him in guilt to such an extent that it causes the death of his criminal mind rather than mere body.
There are two things we need to do if we want to deter crimes and also to in a way relieve victims:
- Make the punishment as public as possible.
- To ensure conviction rather than severity of penalty.
Around 30% of the death penalties given by trial courts result in acquittals on further appeals. The conviction takes years and is also not sure shot. The perpetrator knows that the acquittal rate is almost 10 times of the rate of conviction and hence, he will get away with it. As long as this scenario does not cease to exist, we will not be able to fulfill the dream of a society with a negligent crime rate.
If we want to make our nation great again, we need to make the evil fear punishment again.