Saturday, April 6, 2013
President Sri Pranab Mukerjee , has cleared all pending mercy petitions of those who were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court, rejecting five petitions and commuting two for life imprisonment. The article 72 of the constitution gives powers to the President to intervene in the matter. The mercy petitions reach the president through Home Ministry with its recommendations. The petitions were pending for a long time as those files were shuttling between Rashtrpati Bhavan and Home Ministry on one query or other. Sri Mukerjee after taking charge as President is giving particular care to finalise pending files including the mercy petitions. The five persons whose mercy rejected are those who committed cruel multiple murders. In India death penalties are given in rarest of the rare cases only.
However prolonging the decision on such petitions too is somewhat cruel. The mercy petitions are no ordinary files. A person is waiting to hear its result with anxious, sleepless nights in one of the cells in the jail. The delay in taking decision actually compounds his sentence manifold. My personal opinion is petitions pending more than 6 months should be commuted to full-life jail sentence considering the petitioner’s anguished months in jail waiting for President’s verdict.
The U N O and Amnesty International are working to eliminate death penalty from the face of earth. But some countries are adamant at it while some others half-hearted. The stats say 58 countries still practice death sentence while 97 countries have abolished it. There is a queer argument for the proponents of Capital Punishment that executions deter criminals from committing murders and that way it actually saves many lives of future victims and convicts. But the argument is farfetched, because it is not sure whether Capital punishment has any deterrent effect on criminals and prevents any crime from committing, The crimes are committed on the spur of the moment without a thought of its consequences. So crimes would continue to be committed irrespective of its legal consequences. Besides, a long life in the jail with sense of guilt and remorse is better suited for the person than instant death.
Once the President rejects the mercy petition the wheels of an execution process begins to roll forward. The date of hanging is fixed and the hangman informed of it. All preparations related to hanging are the duty of hangman. There is special rope for hanging which is made smooth by wax and ripe Banana fruit so that when the noose is made it will slide smoothly to the convict’s neck.
He then checks the gallows, footboard on which the convict stands and the lever to remove the footboard from under the feet of convict. The strength of the rope is checked with sand bags. The hangman reaches the spot on the day before hanging and again makes a final checking. He will be served dinner there and he usually consume some liquor if he is one used to it in order to lighten the gruesome act he is going to commit.. He normally gets very little sleep that night like the convict and wake up by 2.30. He will have some tea and begin work of tying the rope on the gallows. By that time the Jail Superintendent, local Magistrate, senior police officers and a doctor will be present on the venue. Just before an hour the convict would be brought to the gallows and his crime and punishment read out loud . Then the officers step back and the hangman takes over. He ties the convict’s hands and legs. The hangman recites a little prayer to make him rid of any part in the hanging. Then a black hood is pulled down covering convict’s head and face. He then turns to the officers for orders and when the hangman gets the nod he pulls down the lever and the convict remains hanging. After a while the doctor confirms the death and the body is handed over to the waiting relatives after the post-mortem. The standard practice of hanging a convict goes like this.
The whole operation reminds a Vikramaditya story. A boy was chosen for sacrifice to the Goddess for the welfare of the country. The King and the boy’s parents were present at the venue of sacrifice. When it was to take place the parents held his hands and legs and the king stood by to supervise. When the swordsman was to cut the boy's head he began to laugh. The king ordered to stop sacrifice and asked the boy why he laughed.
The boy said: ‘The God and the King together with my parents are the only entities to safeguard my life here on earth and when they themselves get together and hold me down to eliminate me I found it funny on thinking to whom one can turn for help in such a situation.' The boy was let off.
Latest: The Supreme Court of india has stayed execution of convicts for one month on a petition by Civil rights group. The reason for the stay is the delay in passing orders. The Court will examine whether the delay in execution deserves any clemency.