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The death penalty

Capital punishment is an accursed leftover of the Hammurabic law of retribution. It is alien to the cultural ethos of India that is home to the likes of Mahaveera, Buddha, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa. Modern laws on criminal justice owe their raison d'Ítre in part to the Italian laws and therefore it is prudent to consider what Cesare Beccaria, Italian criminologist, said in 1764: "The laws, which are intended to moderate the ferocity of mankind, should not increase it by examples of barbarity."

Rex S. Arul,
Smyrna, Georgia

* * *

All political parties, national and regional, should discuss the issue bearing in mind that no system is error-free. The editorial "Clemency — for the right reasons" (Oct. 9) rightly cites the 1930 Bihar example in this context. At the same time, the life sentence should be made imprisonment for life in the true sense.

Y.N. Murthy,
Hyderabad

* * *

The death penalty is a larger issue with humanitarian bearings. Let us not confuse it with Afzal's case. Afzal has been found guilty of a terrorist act, and he has not expressed any remorse. In fact, he has stated that he has no faith in the judicial system. He has not pleaded for clemency. His death sentence should be carried out or else the people will lose faith in their government and the rule of law.

Shashi Dharan,
Kannur, Kerala

* * *

The legal process should be allowed to reach its logical conclusion. When terrorism is looming large, the pressing problem is to root out terrorists and their moles. Those advocating the abolition of the death sentence can wait for another day.

K. Natarajan,
Thiruvananthapuram

* * *

The death penalty is barbaric. Equally barbaric is the practice of releasing hardened killers into society after a few years in prison. The decision to abolish the death penalty, if and when taken, should be accompanied by clear norms for life imprisonment and the scrapping of the executive power to grant pardon, reprieve, and remission.

Philip Oommen,
Chennai

* * *

The state taking a person's life in the name of justice may be abhorrent. But when the very existence of the state is sought to be undermined by terrorists, the death sentence is more than justified.

D. Samuel Lawrence,
Madurai

* * *

Though the pros and cons of the death penalty have been deliberated on over decades, the fact that there is hesitation to do away with it strengthens the opinion that perpetrators of heinous crimes deserve no sympathy. The point is not whether it is a deterrent; it is more about the victims who are killed for no fault of theirs. The inhuman act does call for retribution.

V. Aiyasamy,
Chennai

* * *

The editorial is more of an academic exercise. After taking pains to expose the arguments of unfair trial and Kashmiri sentiments, it has finally recommended clemency for Afzal saying it is consistent with The Hindu 's position against the death penalty. Appropriateness, rather than consistency, should be the criterion for taking a position. We are living in bad times. The question of mercy for terrorists, therefore, does not arise.

R. Narasimhan,
Chennai

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