The Narendra Modi government on Thursday called the debate on abolishing capital punishment “legitimate” but made it clear there was no way India could afford to take the leap now due to terrorism in India and the country’s disturbed neighbourhood.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley also rejected suggestions that the government had been in a hurry to execute 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts convict Yakub Memon and made it clear that the BJP disapproved party MP Shatrughan Sinha’s signing a representation for clemency to Memon.
The senior BJP MP was unsparing in his criticism of Hyderabad MP and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh for trying to communalise the punishment meted out to Memon. They had insinuated that the government was fast-tracking Memon’s execution due to his religion, not merits of the case.
Rather, Jaitley told a private news channel the fact was that the case had stretched on for too long.
“The crime took place in 1993, it was a crime against India. And 22 years later, if a person is being punished for crime, it does not lie in the mouth of anybody to speak of doing it in a hurry,” the senior BJP leader said.
Given that Memon’s appeals against the death penalty had been considered seven times by the courts and the President, Jaitley added, there was hardly any ground for anybody to argue that he had been given an unfair deal.
“We have a judicial system; there is an investigation, trial, appeal and so on. We are not banana republic,” he told the news channel in an interview.
But Jaitley – who brushed aside claims that security officials had promised a lighter sentence to Memon – said the broader debate over retaining death penalty on the statute was a legitimate one. But he quickly added there was little chance that the demand could be accepted due to terrorism and the prevailing security situation.
“We are not in a position to abolish death penalty,” he said, adding that the BJP’s ideology was against showing leniency to those who butcher innocents.
Courts in India had awarded death penalty to 2,052 convicts between 1998 and 2013.