Hanging criminals is justified, but not rejoicing over it

After more than seven years of protracted judicial proceedings, four criminals who abused ‘Nirbhaya’ - a media moniker for a young paramedic who was gang-raped and killed in December 2012 - have been finally hanged in India

N S Venkataraman Mar 23, 2020
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After more than seven years of protracted judicial proceedings, four criminals who abused ‘Nirbhaya’ - a media moniker for a young paramedic who was gang-raped and killed in December 2012 - have been finally hanged in India. There have been debates all over the world as to whether killing a person by hanging, or stoning, or any other method by way of punishment, even for the worst of crimes, in the name of law and justice, is appropriate. In several countries, capital punishment (killing a person), by hanging or any other method, is banned by law.

At the same time, there are countries like Singapore where the lawbreakers and criminals are subjected to whipping and, in some countries like Saudi Arabia, hands are chopped off for stealing. These countries also hang / kill criminals.

The argument against killing is that man has no right to take away the life of anyone else, and this amounts to matching the cruelty of the criminal with the cruelty of the law.

The overwhelming view appears to be that severe punishment is required for the heinous crimes committed by criminals, and such punishment is required to act as a deterrent for other people to not to break the law or indulge in criminal acts such as rape.

While the arguments for and against capital punishment have been going on for decades and would continue as long as the human race survives, the next question is when some criminals are hanged, should it be a matter for rejoicing and celebration?

In India, the hanging of four criminals for the injustice done to Nirbhaya has been made to look as an event of national celebration, with the media and most activists calling the hanging as doing justice to Nirbhaya and, therefore, a valid cause for celebration. Sweets were distributed and people hugged each other when they got the news that the four criminals were hanged in the early morning.

Should we not confine ourselves to viewing the event of hanging simply as a matter of punishment for a criminal act dispassionately and not celebrating it as if it is a festival?

In life, everyone does mistakes at some time, some of which could be heinous. In many cases, people who have committed mistakes feel remorse later on and even repent and might not repeat it. Again, that does not mean that the mistake should go unpunished.

My objection is not for hanging the criminals but in rejoicing over it. There is an element of distaste and lack of civility in such celebration.

When some people wanted a criminal woman to be stoned to death, Jesus Christ said that anyone in the crowd can stone the criminal to death, if that particular person who sought to throw stones had not done any criminal act in the past. The entire crowd then fell silent.

Humans do not know from where they came at the time of birth and where they would go after death. Origin and end of man is uncertain. In such circumstances, every dead man deserves respect and this includes criminals too.

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. He can be contacted at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com)

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March 15, 2020 | Volume 4 | Issue 4

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