As the judge read out the sentence of death penalty to all the four accused in the December 16 Delhi gang rape case, crowds eagerly anticipating the said judgment outside the Delhi High Court erupted into a jubilant chorus expressing their satisfaction that “justice” had finally been done. It is precisely this idea of justice, as perceived by a vast majority of our country, which I think needs urgent reflection today.
Justice is, as philosopher John Rawls describes it, “the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought”. Justice is also blind as is seen in the familiar depiction of Lady Justice with a blindfold on her eyes. It is this quality of justice that makes it a virtue and it is a duty of the courts to protect this virtue, as it is the fundamental principle on which such institutions were founded. So justice is to be thought of as being distinct from societal values and mores such as benevolence, compassion, generosity and mercy. However, it is now being argued that the judiciary has failed to maintain objectivity in deciding this case by yielding to societal and political pressure and has thus made it difficult for the people of India to understand justice from now on as being unconnected from the above mentioned qualities.
The collective demand for justice in terms of death for the accused stems from a sense of vengeance that has been deeply ingrained into our culture over the years. We find a strong evidence for this in the nihilistic pattern of thinking which has very visibly developed in the minds of not just the adult men and women of our society but even in the minds of children for the last few decades. The understanding of justice on such terms is that a person who inflicts an injury on another person should be hit back with such force as to cause him a greater injury and pain. An eye for an eye. Death for death. This attitude of the people, which explains the cheerful reaction that has been observed across the country, needs urgent introspection.
Death should never be a reason to celebrate, notwithstanding whoever it is brought to. I understand the satisfaction that is brought to the minds of many people across the country with the sentence that has been read to the four accused, but in my opinion, putting them on the death nail does not reserve the capacity to either “bring a sense of peace” or “offset the rate of sexual crimes”, as is being echoed by all the ‘intelligent’ journalists and politicians of our country across television screens. Does anybody really think that this in anyway compensates for the lives that are lost every day by thousands of women and girls in our country and the suffering that their loved ones endure?
What has been lost will never come back. But, if only we were able to find a way to prevent the atrocities that are being committed not just in our country but in other places in different parts of the world day after day, only then would we be able to do real justice to the spirits departed and the ones left behind. They should be able to believe that whatever happened with them would never repeat again. Sexual crimes are increasingly on the rise and the administration is doing very little to prevent this. It is this system which needs to be changed. We cannot exterminate all the criminals and murders in the world but we can fight them only when we have understood the workings of evil and the very source that births it. Death is too low a price to pay for the deprivation of love.
It is thus my hope that each and every one of you reading this piece today would think about what this judgment has to say about our collective human conscience the next time you decide to participate in any discussion relating to the issue of death penalty and its wider consequences. It is not for wise men to choose a path that dejects reason and employs the use of emotions. Reason and reason alone can decide better judgments.
About the Author
He is a student of Symbiosis Law School in Pune. An optimist at heart with a penchant for public speaking he had decided to join law school out of an intensive interest to make significant contribution in the area of human rights work in the country. He is currently pursuing a diploma in the field of Human Rights Jurisprudence which involves a comprehensive study of the interface between International law and Human rights law. Having been a science student he also holds a special interest in the field of Intellectual Property Rights and particularly in exploring the human rights aspect in it. His other interests include Criminal Justice and Feminist Jurisprudence. An avid dreamer, Dipayan hopes to go a long way in the fight for the realization of his vision and also hopes for the right people to join him in this effort.