Thursday, 17 April 2008

Is the State justified?

A few nights ago over dinner, a colleague mentioned how difficult it was for him to explain "death" to his two young sons. True, I thought. How do you explain to a little one what the inevitable is? It is a strange concept at the tender ages of four and six. Today, I found it impossible justifying the death penalty to myself. I am an adult and understand that what is born must perish. Yet, the act of taking what cannot be returned is a difficult one to digest.

The US Supreme Court today passed a ruling upholding lethal injections. This injection is a combination of three drugs. The first one, sodium thiopental, is an anesthetic intended to render the condemned unconscious. Next is pancuronium bromide which is supposed to shut down the lungs and paralyze the body. Finally potassium chloride is administered to induce a lethal heart attack. Just reading this made me quiver in my stomach and a chill went down my spine. What would those individuals, who are subjected to this, be feeling just hours before their last breath? What would be going through their near and dear ones? How can the state justify making the last moments of a person’s life absolutely so horrific and difficult to endure?

Chief Justice John Roberts believes that the state has put in place enough measures to ensure that in the first step, enough sodium thiopental is administered to ensure that the convict is sedated. He also believes that any inmate challenging the execution process, must be able to demonstrate that the method creates “substantial risk of severe pain”. The method does create severe pain. Pain for those who have to witness their beloved suffer through his/her last hours. Pain for those who probably are already half dead with the knowledge that of how death will take them away. Pain for those who are screaming out for a last chance at life and an attempt to redeem themselves. And what about the pain for those condemned wrongly?

A long time back, I argued against capital punishment for crime against women. While I do believe that crime against women is amongst the most sinful deeds committed, I also am convinced that capital punishment is not the answer. For one, the woman lives with her agony while the condemned forgets it the minute he goes. The b@*$@*^ who committed the ghastly act should rather be c^%$@*@^& and kept in isolation. Next, I still cannot justify taking a life. Each one of us commits our own set of sins. Who are we to judge another human being to the extent that we make his existence extinct? How can we be so hypocritical that on the one hand we let high profile men (including armed forces who are supposed to protect and preserve) charged with rape roam free but on the other hand send some others all the way to the gallows? That to me is not justice.

Would I recommend capital punishment to those involved in the 7/7 bombings was a question I was recently asked. Definitely not. I stand by that. An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind! Life is beautiful and precious. Only if we could all see it that way!


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Euthanasia: For and Against!

Pankaj said...

In the Mahabharta, thousands of people, both good and evil were killed under the aegis of God over what may seem to the uninitiated just a property dispute. It was of course to restore Dharma and set an example for generations to come. This was nothing less than capital punishment.

I agree with you that we as humans do not have the right to take away something that we cannot return. I am incompetent to judge if capital punishment is right or wrong however I feel that there are better alternatives and several countries/societies have proven this.

Allow me to share a nice quote from Rabindranath Tagore which says ‘Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come’. Let’s not dramatize death :)