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Does Capital Punishment help reduce crime?

I just read this news article in reaction to the Government's decision to allow courts to award the death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age. The government's decision comes in the wake of nationwide protests against child rape.

But as the article states, and I quote - "fear that with the death penalty, most people will not report child rapes, as in most cases the accused are family members. The conviction rate will come down further".

I have been myself thinking about this ever since I have heard of the law being passed. The problem in India has been the implementation of a law and not having a stringent penalty. I quote again - "We already have the death penalty for several offences and that has not led to any deterrence. If we are looking to create a deterrent, then we have to create it where it works."

The issue is not that child rape or any crime doesn't have stringent punishment but that conviction is low and justice takes so long to deliver that it's often akin to being denied. This is evident in several cases involving politicians and celebrities - Salman Khan was accused of killing people sleeping on a footpath by running their car over them. The proceedings took so long that Ravindra Patil, the key witness (who was the Police protector for Salman on that fateful night), died of severe ailments [and under mysterious circumstances] before the decision was arrived at. The case was won by Khan, but not without the fact that the key witness was NOT present in the courtroom to present facts. The case against Salman for the killing of the black buck, a protected wildlife species, was also decided 20 years after the incident.

I am not relating the case of Salman here as an unrelated rant, but rather to prove how judicial system is faced with severe delays and any form of stringent punishment will not help matters anyway if the sorry state of awarding justice continues.

We need to think of rather strengthening the system, making sure that police officers can discharge their duties without political pressure, the judicial system is also kept corruption free (which is otherwise ensured by the Constitutional provisions of judicial independence) but more importantly speedy and efficient in discharging justice.

On this count, the less noticed aspect of the government's decision is laudable - in addition to allowing capital punishment, the government has set the time limit for investigation as well as completion of the trial of all cases of rape as two months and prescribed the limit for disposal of appeals to six months.

As citizens, we also need to become more responsible - when you bribe the traffic constable with a hundred rupee note instead of paying the fine, you circumvent the law and strengthen the loop which makes the police system more amenable for manipulation than astute enforcement of the law. You do the same when you put up that Facebook post of Salman 'Bhai' being the kind-hearted human being and not an undertrial accused.

The judicial system does not work in isolation - as several cases in past have shown, public opinion and general behaviour of public play a major unwritten role in how judiciary looks at cases. If the public, in general, is content with delayed and subverted justice, leniency to politicians and celebrities - the judicial system will mould itself in the same general frame. But if we stop being malleable about justice based on our opinion and infatuations, the judicial system will gain strength to deliver justice faster and more efficiently.

Let us not just rant for stringent punishment, but rather a more efficient judicial system!

Image Credits: Michael Coghlan via Flickr


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