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Delhi gang-rape: Activists question euphoria over death sentence

delhi Updated: Sep 14, 2013 09:13 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times
Delhi gangrape verdict

Amid the widespread support for the city court's decision to sentence to death the four convicts responsible for the December 16 gang-rape and murder, there are voices of dissent on whether death penalty is a deterrent against heinous crimes.

Jurists opposed to death penalty and human rights groups expressed disappointment over the general euphoria on the death sentence, saying the tendency of looking for quick fix solutions to douse public anger would not ensure safety and empowerment of women in the country.

Veteran human rights lawyer ND Pancholi said the death sentence for four young convicts was bad in law. "The prosecution repeatedly stressed that the juvenile was the most brutal among all the accused. Then how can it ever be justified that he will remain alive and four others will hang?"

He welcomed the quick verdict convicting the accused, but opposed the death sentence, saying "It is clearly on the basis of the public clamour and these men should have been kept in jail throughout their lives."

Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal said the decision to hang the convicts had been announced by the home minister two days before the court pronounced it.

"I have no problem with the court holding the accused guilty, but I fail to understand why only the poor get death sentence in India? Is there a single case of a rich person being hanged?" she asked.

Lawyer Karuna Nandy said a mass awareness campaign to counter violence against women should be the focus. "Eliminating these men will not eliminate the culture of rape. The deep misogyny of potential assailants, as well as many actors within the criminal justice system needs to shift."

Former Delhi high court chief justice Rajinder Sachar said the focus should be on changing the attitude of the society towards women and not death penalty. "I am not sure whether the death sentence acts as a deterrent against heinous crimes."

Human rights organisation, Amnesty International said though the widespread anger in India over this case is understandable, "authorities must avoid using the death penalty as a quick-fix solution. There is no evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, and its use will not eradicate violence against women in India."

The Asian Centre for Human Rights said the death penalty could be counter-productive since the possibility of victims being murdered by criminals in order to destroy evidence must not be overlooked.