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Posts Tagged ‘Afzal Guru

We don’t want to bleed anymore

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PUBLISHED IN ZEE NEWS INDIA

When the general secretary of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi walked into the RML Hospital premises on September 07 after the Delhi High Court blast, slogans were shouted against him. And so were against other politicians who came to empathise with the victims and their families. This in many ways is symbolic of the growing frustration of the general public with those who govern them and the apathy with which they are treated.

India has been attacked again and again. Sample this – On March 12, 1993, Mumbai serial bombings shook the financial capital of the country killing more than 250 people. The main accused, Dawood Ibrahim is yet to be extradited to India from Pakistan. On December 13, 2001, more than a dozen people, including five gunmen, were killed in an attack on Parliament. On September 24, 2002, terrorists attacked Akshardham temple in Gujarat. In August 2003, two taxis packed with explosives blew up in Mumbai at crowded areas killing more than 50 people.

In October 2005, three bombs placed in Delhi markets, crowded with Diwali shoppers killed around 62 people and injured hundreds. In July 2006, seven bombs placed on Mumbai’s local trains killed over 200 people. Eight serial blasts rocked Jaipur in a span of 12 minutes in May 2008. On November 26, 2008, attacks on ten locations in Mumbai left more than 180 dead. Pakistani national, Ajmal Kasab has been sentenced to death with an appeal pending before the Supreme Court.

The list, sadly, goes on…

The Ram Pradhan Committee formed after 26/11 attacks to look into the lapses and recommend measures to stop further attacks, called for radical transformation of the police force. In spite of its recommendations, the beat constable is still unequipped, CCTV cameras still do not work and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad established in 2004 is reportedly working at some 30 percent of the strength as compared to the numbers sanctioned by the government.

National Intelligence Grid was given approval by the Union Cabinet in June this year, months after the idea was first mooted. The project aimed at facilitating information-sharing among law enforcement agencies to combat terror was apparently delayed because of objections from other ministries, especially that of defence and finance, as they felt that the home ministry would have an unlimited access to all the information.

National Counter Terrorism Council (NCTC), an umbrella body to fight terror is also in the pipeline. Not sure when it will see the light of the day.

Delhi Chief Minister, after the High Court blast, had remarked that “multiplicity of agencies” created functional problem in combating terror and solving cases. To which the Home Minister P Chidambaram had replied that no single body can alone handle internal and external intelligence, policing and counter-terrorism. How often have we heard the government talk in different languages? And if statements like these do no create confusion in the minds of the citizens then what does?

On May 25, 2011, a blast took place at the Delhi High Court car park. Nonetheless it did nothing to wake up the authorities.

Home Minister recently said that Af-Pak was the epicentre of terror and that home-grown terror modules are fertilised from outside. And to a foreign television channel he said, “As far as cross-border terrorism is concerned, we have to continue to put pressure on Pakistan.”
The Indian Mujahideen gained notoriety in 2008 after taking responsibility for blasts in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and Assam, even though it had been active since 2003. As per intelligence reports, the IM is being controlled from across the border. It was also reported recently that militants trying to infiltrate into India by June had exceeded the figures of 2010.

In this scenario what good are the photo-ops between SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar, especially if the perpetrators of 26/11 cannot be brought to book? Yes, we cannot change our neighbours but we can certainly change the way we talk to them. Yes, trade and commerce are important issues, but not at the cost of losing innocent lives.

P Chidambram, was supposedly pulled back when he decided to tighten the noose around the Maoists, due to pressures from certain quarters and certain political parties. After the Batkal encounter case in Delhi, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, decided to visit Azamgarh. The Afzal Guru hanging case has long been in the public domain for the people to read between the lines. Isn’t it time we stop the policy of appeasement and vote-banks at the cost of bloodshed?

Congress leader Renuka Chowdhry said in a recent television debate, “Do you think that the terrorists will stop if we have a CCTV? What do you do when terrorists are ready to die?” After the serial blasts in Mumbai in July, Prithviraj Chavan, CM of Maharashtra lamented, “Terror groups are active and are able to strike at will.” Instead of statements like these, we need our leaders to send out a stern message to all terror groups that India will go after them in hot pursuit. And we also need a strong anti-terror law in place.

We have generic information about impending attacks but are we in a position to have specific and actionable and preventive attacks. Do our intelligence agencies depend too much on technical intelligence? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the same concern at a recent event when he said that security establishment needed to improve its, “human intelligence capabilities”.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said in a television interview, post the Delhi HC blast, “The most dangerous thing is that in the last six or so blasts, the cases are by and large unsolved.”

Think over this – On December 7, 2010, a bomb went off at a Varanasi ghat killing a two-year old girl with no arrests made in the case so far. On December 19, 2010, gunmen on motorbikes shot at a tourist bus injuring two persons. It was considered to be IM’s handiwork. The case is unsolved. On July 13, 2011, triple blasts in Mumbai killed 21 persons, with IM being the prime suspect. ATS is investigating, with an arrest only very recently. On April 6, 2011, two blasts took place in Maligaon in Assam which killed 7 persons. Investigation is on, ULFA are the main suspects. Inspite of some arrests, it is said that the main culprit is still in the run. And the very recent May 25, 2011, Delhi High Court car park blast with no casualties. It too remains unsolved. And add to it the 7/11 blast again at Delhi HC – not much headway in this case either.

Yes, it is a cause for alarm if cases of terror attacks are unsolved for a long period of time.

Amidst all these spare a thought for the victims of the bomb blasts – past and present and if I may add with a dread – the future. The citizens don’t want to be saluted anymore for their so called resilience and die-hard-spirit – what they want is to live in peace and dignity. And anyways what choice do they have than to get up and get going the next day?

Yes, maybe terror attacks all over the world cannot be prevented all the time. Nonetheless, it is important for the government and the intelligence agencies of the day to be perceived as trying to do their best.

 

ORIGIN: http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/we-don-t-want-to-bleed-anymore_734644.html

Is the death penalty about to die?

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The Madras High Court‘s order last week staying the execution of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s three killers has triggered a fresh debate on the desirability of the death penalty in India. The court also asked the government to explain why it took 11 years for the president to reject the trio’s mercy pleas.

President Pratibha Patil rejected them in early August. The Tamil Nadu assembly then passed a unanimous resolution requesting the president to reconsider her decision. Politicians in Punjab are making a similar demand for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted of a 1993 terror attack in Delhi that claimed several lives. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah reflected the sentiment in his state when he tweeted that had his state assembly passed a similar resolution about Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru reactions would not have been so muted.

The BJP favours the death penalty for such criminals, but Congress leaders have been airing their personal views for or against it. The Indian intelligentsia – the media, academics and the judiciary is also divided about the issue.

A look at the debate:

Punishment is a natural response to crime
This principle is almost universally accepted and that letting off criminals can result in vigilante justice. Also, the punishment has to be proportionate to the degree of wrongdoing and mitigating circumstances have to be considered while deciding the quantum of punishment. It goes without saying that the accused will be given a fair chance to defend himself/herself.

But various societies in different parts of the world react to crime in different ways. While some, such as a few Arab countries, choose retributive punishment of “an eye for an eye”, others have deterrent punishment. Of late, there has been a shift towards restorative and reformist approaches to punishment, including in India.

Death Penalty in India
Capital crimes are murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the government and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. In recent years, the death penalty has also been imposed under a new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted of terrorist activities.

Is the judiciary becoming averse to the death penalty?
Section 354(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which was added to the Code in 1973, requires a judge to give “special reasons” for awarding death sentences. In 1980, in the Bachan Singh case, the Supreme Court propounded the “rarest of rare” doctrine and since then, the life sentence is the rule and the death sentence the exception.

But recently, the Supreme Court refused to impose the capital punishment in the Graham Staines, Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo murder cases on the ground that these did not fall within the category of “rarest of rare.” Is the judiciary becoming averse to capital punishment?

According to senior advocate KTS Tulsi, the vice chairman of the Law Commision of India, “India has found a perfect balance by retaining the death penalty as a deterrent, yet invoking it only in exceptional cases. While the deterrent effect is maintained, the possibility of an erroneous execution is minimised. Compared with China, Japan, Arab countries and the US, the use of capital punishment in India has been minimal.”

Moratorium on the death penalty
In December 2007, India voted against a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. But in effect, there has been a moratorium on the death penalty in India. Since 1995 there has been only one execution, that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, in August 2004.

The judiciary appears to be hesitant in awarding the death penalty. The executive has disposed of several mercy petitions in the past few months, but around 20 such pleas, including that of Afzal Guru, are still pending before the president.

According to Amnesty International, in India, at least 100 people in 2007, 40 in 2006, 77 in 2005, 23 in 2002, and 33 in 2001 were sentenced, but not executed, to death.

Rajiv Gandhi Killers’ case is a test case
The Rajiv Gandhi Killers’ case is going to be a test case for death penalty in India. Whatever be the Madras HC decision, the matter is bound to go to the Supreme Court, which could lay down guidelines for timely disposal of mercy petitions. If the court rules that inordinate delay is a ground for converting a death penalty to life imprisonment, then it would have bearing on all pending mercy petitions, including that of Afzal Guru.

World moving towards abolition of death penalty
According to Amnesty International, more than two-thirds of countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Ninety-six countries have abolished capital punishment for all crimes while nine have done away with it for ordinary crimes. Further, 34 countries have abolished it either in law or in practice. Only 58 countries retain this extreme form of punishment.

Should India abolish the death penalty?
“No”, says former additional solicitor general of India Vikas Singh. “Generally, a punishment should be aimed at reforming the criminal. But in some cases, such as in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case or Parliament attack case, you have to give a deterrent punishment, for the simple reason that you can not reform these criminals. Can you reform Kasab (26/11 convict)?”

But Suhas Chakma, the director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, disagrees. “The death penalty has failed to act as a deterrent against any crime. It’s nothing but retribution. Such medieval justice does not reflect the ethos of Mahatma Gandhi. India should abolish the death penalty and join the league of civilised countries.”

COURTESY: HINDUSTAN TIMES

Rajiv case outcome will settle fate of India’s 18 ‘dead men walking’

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Rajiv Gandhi and R.L.Lakhina

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J.VENKATESAN & VINAY KUMAR in THE HINDU

With as many as 18 clemency petitions filed by death-row convicts or their family members still pending consideration with the Government — some for years on end — the eventual fate of the petition filed by the three condemned men awaiting execution in the Rajiv Gandhi case is bound to have an impact on other prisoners awaiting the gallows across India.

In a plea admitted by the Madras High Court on Wednesday, Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan said that the eleven years the government took to process and reject their mercy petition made the execution of their death sentence unduly harsh and excessive. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 and the trio, who were convicted of being part of the larger conspiracy, have already been incarcerated for 20 years, mostly in solitary confinement.

The last execution in India was carried out in Kolkata in August 2004, when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for raping and killing a schoolgirl. Since then, there has been no execution of convicts awarded the death penalty.

According to information furnished by the Minister of State for Home, Mullappally Ramachandran, in the Lok Sabha on August 16, 18 mercy petition cases of death convicts are pending. Though “the power under Article 72 of the Constitution does not contain any limitation as to the time in which the power conferred might be exercised,” the minister asserted that, “As per the orders of the Supreme Court, the cases of mercy petitions are processed expeditiously in consultation with the governments/departments concerned for a final decision of the President of India, under Article 72 of the Constitution.”

The facts, however, speak otherwise.

Mercy petitions are usually filed soon after the Supreme Court rejects the petitions seeking review of the judgment convicting and sentencing the accused to death. Right after the mercy petition is filed, the

President’s office forwards it to the Union Home Ministry for advice by the Council of Ministers. Invariably, delay takes place in the government forwarding its advice to the President. Thereafter, the President decides on the mercy petition based on the government’s advice. Lengthy delays occur there too.

In the case of the three convicts in the Rajiv case, the mercy petitions were sent to the President soon after the review petitions were dismissed in October 1999. It took about five years for the government to convey its decision to the President to reject the mercy plea and six years for the President to accept the advice and pass appropriate orders.

Recently the Home Ministry has asked the President to reject the mercy petition of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case of December 2001. In reply to information sought under the RTI Act by Subhash Chandra Agarwal, the President’s Secretariat said the oldest petition pending with them was from 2005, while six mercy petitions were submitted to her office in 2011 alone.

The petition of Sushil Murmu from Jharkhand, who was convicted of killing a nine-year-old child for a religious ritual, has been pending since 2005. Another case is of Jafar Ali, who is facing the death penalty for murdering his wife and daughters. He applied for the President’s mercy August 21, 2006.

Meanwhile, the RTI reply also said that the President had commuted the death sentences of 10 convicts to life imprisonment following mercy petitions. In 2009 alone, death sentences of seven convicts had been commuted to life imprisonment.

In May, President Patil rejected the mercy plea of Mahendranath Das alias Govinda Das who had severed the head of 68-year-old Harakanta Das, secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association, in 1996. He was sentenced to death by a sessions court in 1997. Another mercy plea rejected by the President was that of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who has been given the death penalty in a 1993 car bombing case in New Delhi.

During his tenure, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam decided only two mercy petitions. In 2004, he rejected the plea of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, and in 2006 he commuted convict Kheraj Ram’s death penalty to life imprisonment. President K.R. Narayanan did not clear any mercy petition.

In 2009, the Supreme Court judgment in Jagdish vs State of Madhya Pradesh asked the Centre to decide the mercy petitions expeditiously, preferably within three months. It said the condemned prisoner and his suffering relatives have a very pertinent right in insisting that a decision in the matter be taken within a reasonable time, failing which the power should be exercised in favour of the prisoner and the sentence should be commuted into one of life imprisonment.

A self-imposed rule should be followed by the executive authorities rigorously, that every such petition shall be disposed of within a period of three months from the date on which it is received. Long and interminable delays in the disposal of these petitions are a serious hurdle in the dispensation of justice and indeed, such delays tend to shake the confidence of the people in the very system of justice, the court said.

In July this year, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre on a plea by Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar to explain the inordinate delay of several years in deciding the mercy petitions of convicts after the Supreme Court had pronounced its final verdict. The petitioner said, “The power is not merely a privilege but a matter of performance of official duty. The power has to be exercised not only for the benefit of the convict, but also for the welfare of the people who may insist for the performance of the duty and therefore the discretion has to be exercised on public considerations alone.”. The matter is still pending as the Centre is yet to file its reply. However, days after Bhullar filed his petition, his mercy plea — which had been hanging fire for years — was speedily processed and rejected by the Home Ministry and President.