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Are prisoners not Human?

Seriously - national television is too bankrupt of good reporting - as I type this they are debating on IBN7 whether or not Ajmal Kasab has a right to use a toothpaste and deodorant while in Jail! 

However, reporting standards of national TV apart - I have had a lot of my friends and colleagues believing that there is no point waiting for a trial for Ajmal Kasab, leave alone granting him a lawyer - he should simply be convicted of his crimes. 

Their argument is that everyone has seen Kasab - on CCTV's - more so he has been caught on the spot and so there is nothing left to prove in a court of law, nothing left to defend for the lawyer - so why the lawyer and why the trial? Simply execute him of the charges!! The recent debate on his age too is incomprehensible to most - how does it matter if he was 17 or 18 - he is guilty, he should be executed.

Well I am not a lawyer - but a student of logic and I believe that we are all making the mistake of assuming that a court is needed only to prove the accused guilty or innocent. Not quite - a trial is in place to decide upon 3 distinct points:
  1. What is the crime commited?
  2. Did the accused commit the crime?
  3. What was the nature of the crime and hence what should be the sentence for it?  
While in Kasab's case there is possibly little to argue over the first two points - but the third is yet to be decided. Isn't the nature of crime clear - its is MURDER of hundreds of innocent civilians. Well ... not necessarily - the nature of crime depends on the circumstances under which the crime was conducted, including the state of mind of the accused (hence the debate over Kasab's age).

To site some examples as to how the nature of the crime depends on circumstances and state of mind of the accused, consider the legal term - "Heat of Passion". A finding that a person who killed another acted in the heat of passion will reduce murder to Manslaughter under certain circumstances

The essential prerequisites for such a reduction are that the accused must be provoked to a point of great anger or rage, such that the person loses his or her normal capacity for self-control. The penalty for manslaughter is imprisonment while a person convicted of murder may be sentenced to a prison sentence with no possibility of Parole, or death.

I am not arguing that Kasab may be guilty of manslaughter and not murder - that is for the court to decide. What I am arguing is that Kasab needs a lawyer to argue on his behalf on these thin points of legality - state of his mind and the nature of his crime - so that appropriate conviction can be doled out to him. 

In philosophical terms - we all need to realize that the accused is also a victim (of circumstances) and so his/her punishment (which is equivalent to the justice for the victim) needs to be decided in a just and fair manner through a proper court trial and with a competent lawyer.

Courts are not meant to punish the accused, but to dole out a sentence that would rid the society at large of crime - if it means capital punishment to the accused, so be it; but if it must mean reforming the accused - that too needs to be decided lawfully. Life imprisonment or capital punishment may not always be the cure to the evils of the society.

And on the issue of toothpaste and deodorant - I think criminals too are human; not just Kasab but all prisoners have a right to using such basic necessities like the toothpaste - lets allow them a decent imprisonment at the least!! I hope the court agrees ....


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