The decision to award capital punishment once again comes into question with the recent awarding of death penalty to Yakub Memon- the suspect who had been found guilty in the March 1993 Bombay blasts. The blasts had claimed the lives of more than 250 innocent people and injured thousands of them for a lifetime. But even after 22 years, the main conspirators of these blasts- Tiger Memon (brother of Yakub Memon) and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim are still out of our reach. But one thing is clear; these blasts can not be viewed in isolation.
It all started when India’s secular fabric was stained when the 400 year old Babri masjid was demolished by Hindutva extremists in December 1992 and many innocent people were slaughtered. Deadly riots consequently broke out in Mumbai and other parts of the country, consuming over 1000 lives, mostly Muslims. As retribution for these events, Mumbai was ripped apart by 13 devastating blasts on a black Friday 1993. But again- coming to the moot point- why capital punishment? In this case some people argue that Yakub’s death will bring some closure to the families of the victims. But his legal killing will not only take us one step back in the fight against capital punishment, it is proven to have little impact as a deterrent to crime. And in this case, the irony is that even the involvement of Yakub in the conspiracy is peripheral and there is no direct evidence against him. His conviction was based on the concessions of the six co-accused, five of whom were later retracted.
He was charged for financing the blasts which he claims he did unwittingly. So here one has to say he is paying for the sins of his brother, who was the actual conspirator. So can we consider this as a failure of the Indian judicial system or a frustration which led them to give this capital punishment? Because this hanging would only send an ominous message across the countries that our judicial system recognises guilt by association and that there is no place for reformation- with Yakub having spent two decades in jail, where he completed 2 degrees -political science and history. But the question still remains- what has capital punishment done to crime or terrorism? The rate of growth of crime has not dropped or stopped. But the irony is that the rate of crime has increased over time. Hanging kills the element, not the thought. A thought or radical belief is immortal which would persist in the society even after a person is hanged. So the need is to reform that radical or extremist belief rather than killing the person altogether. Our main aim is to go to the depth of the crime and then try to understand why a crime took place. A crime or act of terrorism never develops in isolation, it always develops over a time of period.
Here, we are saying that capital punishment should not be banned at all but used only when there is no scope for reformation. Like when our neighbours Pakistan stepped down the moratorium on capital punishment, the aftermath of the Peshawar school killings, in which nearly 200 innocent lost their lives. For such a heinous crime, capital punishment was the only way out. With other countries moving towards more reforming justice, it is the right time for India to take it’s call on capital punishment as well.