Capital punishment - an attempt to satisfy emotional anger
JUDICIAL SYSTEM: There have been many instances of persons writing to
newspapers and being engaged in discussions stating that capital
punishment should be "reintroduced" in Sri Lanka and carried out in
certain types of conviction, particularly murder convictions.
Citizens of Sri Lanka, we should never allow capital punishment,
regardless of how horrendous the crime. Introduction of it would lead us
back to the dark ages.
I cannot give all the arguments against capital punishment in an
article of this size. I will attempt to highlight some of the more
1. There is no such system as a perfect system of justice because a
judicial system is enforced by people and people are fallible.
Although most "developed" countries strive towards it, there have
been many cases of wrongful convictions where new evidence has been
presented years later which have proven that the persons convicted were
innocent. Indeed, there have been many cases where persons have been put
to death who were later found to be innocent of the crimes for which
they were convicted.
Many examples of this can be provided if necessary. This is the very
reason why some of the countries who used to have capital punishment in
their statute books (e.g. UK) have now removed it. In a system where the
judiciary needs much improvement, the chances of an innocent person
being convicted can be very high.
2. It is a far worse crime to punish an innocent person than to let a
guilty person walk free. That is why the proof of burden should be on
the state and not the person being accused, which should always continue
to be the case.
If a person is put to death and later found to be innocent, there is
no chance of redress if any new evidence is found to the contrary.
Indeed, the legal system will be reluctant to accept a failure on their
part and will do the utmost to prevent hearing any new evidence that may
come to light which could further spiral the legal system away from
3. It is perfectly correct to pass a death sentence where convictions
are obtained for horrendous crimes, to reflect the enormity of the
However, such sentences should always be automatically commuted to
life imprisonment and the death sentence should never be carried out.
4. There are indeed persons who have committed serious crimes that
will never reform and, given half a chance, will most likely commit an
equally horrendous crime.
Those in favour of capital punishment argue as to why society should
pay for the upkeep of such persons as prisoners.
The answer is very simple. It is not about those that are convicted.
It is about the possibility of preventing innocent persons being put to
death in a legal system that can be subject to human error, as there can
never be any system that can be perfect.
In that regard, the price of sustaining those prisoners is a price
that society has to accept to pay in terms of taxation etc. do not for
one moment think that imprisonment is not enough. Imprisonment takes
away a person's freedom and taking away that freedom is a major form of
5. Additionally, do not forget the pain and suffering that the family
of the convicted person will have to go through if he or she is put to
death. What right do we have as a society to cause them to go through a
lifetime of suffering for no fault of their own.
If you support capital punishment, please put yourself in the shoes
of a mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife or friend who is put
to death by the judicial system of a society. Causing such pain can
never be justified because the loved ones of a convict cannot be held
responsible for his or her crimes.
6. Think of the logistics of carrying out an execution. We are asking
our judges to ask people to be killed and employ a person to murder in
the form of an executioner.
What kind of society will it be with such persons living amongst us.
Finally, I would like to remind those in favour of capital punishment
that a judiciary of a developed nation should be about justice and not
about revenge and providing satisfaction for our emotional anger.
Redress for the victim of a serious crime can be addressed with life
imprisonment instead of death of the perpetrator, because imprisonment
removes the perpetrator from society and severely curtails his or her
freedom, which is a major form of punishment.
Capital punishment is not justice, it is revenge and an attempt to
satisfy our emotional anger.
I would like to finish using the following quotation, the name of
whose author I forget. He said "A nation can survive many wars, but a
nation cannot survive the lack of justice", which I think is very apt
for Sri Lanka.
The death penalty for rape: a populist slogan
DEMANDS: Ever since 1998, when the then Indian Home Minister - and
former Deputy Prime Minister-to-be - L.K. Advani propounded his 'death
penalty to the rapist' stand, the debate over the effectiveness of such
a step has sporadically continued.
Numerous women' s rights groups, as well as the 'National Commission
for Women' (NCW), had rejected the death penalty for rape, outright.
Their demands were straightforward:
- ensure that trials in rape cases are speeded up;
- set right that part of the law which frightens rape victims away
from even complaining; and
- sensitise the judiciary and police to the trauma that the victims
The National Crime Records Bureau Report of 2000, shows that between
1996 and 1999, the conviction rate for rape in police custody was zero.
In such a situation, what use would the death penalty be? With an
already low rate of conviction, introducing the death penalty is likely
to further reduce the chances of conviction. Besides, the fear that the
rapist will then find it safer to kill the victim and destroy all trace
of evidence, is a very valid one.
The NCW has suggested enhancement of punishment for rapists - from
the present 7, to 10 years; reduction in procedural delays in trials
through special courts; and trials on a day-to-day or time-bound basis.
The NCW found that the majority of the 18 state-level workshops which
discussed this issue, had rejected the death penalty for rapists.
Lawyers who have dealt with women' s cases for many years point out
that both the substantive and procedural laws relating to rape are
inadequate. One major amendment required is that of Section 155(4) of
the Indian Evidence Act, which allows a victim to be questioned about
her sexual history.
This is a long-standing demand of the women' s movement, and the Law
Commission subsequently recommended it to the government.
If ever an example were needed of what ails our rape laws, one has
only to look at the result of the post-Godhra assaults on the Muslim
women of Gujarat. Bodies of rape victims were burnt beyond recognition,
meaning that their rapists will roam around free because 'the evidence'
of rape no longer exists.
Also, a delay in filing an first information report with the police,
or an inability to seek medical treatment and thus furnish medical
records, is cited as the 'victim's fault', rather than laid at the door
of societal and family taboos.
In November 2002, the Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the
Indian Evidence Act of 1872. The Law Commission of India in its 84th and
172nd reports also recommended the amendment, which seeks to de-bar
questions related to general moral character in the cross-examination of
a woman who has initiated proceedings against rape.
The history of the death penalty in the U.S. also has lessons for
those who advocate expanding the crimes suitable to be punished by
The US experience is one in which the death penalty has been applied
to an increasingly narrower class of crimes, and has excluded an
increasingly broader group of defendants. To a significant extent, those
restrictions on the death penalty parallel a fuller understanding of
human rights around the world.
Early American criminal law was brought over substantially from
England, and allowed the death penalty for many crimes. In the United
States, the death penalty could be applied for murder, but also for
rape, robbery, treason, and even blasphe-my.
Gradually, the list of death eligible crimes has been shortened to
essentially one: murder. Laws continue to exist which allow the death
penalty for other crimes, but no one is on the state or federal death
rows for a crime that does not involve the death of another person.
The Supreme Court determined that the death penalty was a
disproportionate punishment for the crime of rape in which the victim
did not die. It reached a similar conclusion for the crime of robbery.
Even felony murder in which the defendant did not intend to kill or
harm the victim and did not demonstrate a reckless indifference to human
life by his actions, are not punishable by death - even if a victim
These decisions stem from the Court's concept that "death is
different" as a punishment a notion similar to the human rights precept
that life can only be taken out of utmost necessity.
In India, as with most countries, an imminent execution for a heinous
crime has a dramatic effect on 'public opinion', or at least the 'vocalisation'
of public opinion by those who can seek to exploit the public bias.
In the time shortly prior to the last State-sanctioned execution in
India (that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, in August 2004) public opinion so
swung in favour of the death penalty that even one of the most prominent
women's organisations that had previously opposed capital punishment,
made a U-turn and said that it supported the punishment in 'special
cases' (Dhananjoy's crime was the brutal rape and murder of an 18
year-old high school girl resident in the accommodation in which he was
a security guard).
Yet the death penalty in India is, in any case, imposed only in
special cases that meet the 'rarest of the rare', standard laid down in
the 'Bachan Singh' case. When the former Home Minister, in a populist
mood, told parliament that he was willing to introduce the death penalty
for rape if the women's organisations agreed, there was an outcry.
It was the certainty of punishment not the severity that was critical
the woman's groups said. Yet, having ascended to power,all these
principles were forgotten, and everyone followed the Chief Minister's
wife when she took to the streets to campaign for the hanging.
The call for the death penalty for rape is the offering of a highly
populist but simple-minded answer to an issue that is, at best, complex.
What is clear, however, is that genuine law reform is the need, not
playing to the public gallery.
'NO' to death penalty
TRANSFORMATION: There is no gain saying that rape, child abuse and
drug trafficking are some of the crimes, that are most detrimental to
the society and the individuals today. It is more obligatory.
Prior to implementation of the death penalty, careful and analytical
comprehensive view at grassroots level should be ascertained, thereby
identifying the distinctive reasons for getting involved in these
As a Buddhist not only by birth and also by conviction, I staunchly
believe and agree, that most supreme achievement one can gain, is to be
born as a human being in this world. There is no denying that the
'Human' is the most precious, noble species in the world. When they are
born to the world they are free of hatred, evil, corrupted sentiments in
Transformation of the human into different characters are being
influenced by various factors. Social status, poverty, high
competitiveness deriving through current trends etc. are some of the key
If you measure the strength of the value of the Human being, without
considering the other influential characteristic factors, value will be
almost same, whether he or she is addicted to rape, child abuse or drug
trafficking. Some turn out to be criminals and some turn out to be like
saints. The difference of these occurrences between the birth and the
transformation of the individual, are mostly the external influences
which have transformed them to their retained positions.
When the character is spoilt and one becomes a criminal, it
eventually turns out to be a major detrimental threat to the society,
and tent seek for expeditious ways and means to eradicate this menace.
The proponents for the implementation of the death penalty are of the
view, this most inhuman punishment would restrain the crimes to a
considerable degree in the country, but it is only an imaginary basis
and no proof has been arrived. There could be some restraint in these
crimes in the society, but not by virtue but for the fear of death. With
the extinction of these hapless people, can we consider this situation,
has been redressed or developed in the Society?.
Certainly not. We would definitely have lost a valuable sector, who
would have most probably been propelled into these activities through
various areas as mentioned earlier.
Their immense contribution to the society and other areas could have
been cultivated and instrumented through rehabilitation process to make
it a prolific sector to the country.
The most alarming thing one could expect on this penalty, is the
grave risk factor of victimising the innocent people.
There is also some sort of discrimination on the less privileged
sector who will mostly be the victims of these crimes. Can we ever
expect any drug trafficker to face this dilemma? They will shower all
their wealth from top to bottom to escape the death penalty, and
eventually an innocent poor person may become the victim. No comparison
should be made with other countries with regard to the death punishment
in Sri Lanka.
We are with different religious and ethical background, where we can
hardly accept, that the death penalty could be deterrent to restrain the
crime level in the country.
It is highly appreciated that most religious advisers, and other
organisations are in the process of rehabilitating this sector with
great interest and sacrifices. Rather than implementing the death
punishment to extinct these people, isn't it better or more fruitful to
look into the feasibilities to rectify their grievances for them to have
fallen into these tracks, at deep root level, which have to be remedied
with concerted efforts.
Today rape is rampant not only in the uncivilised society, but also
in the civilised society as well. It has become conducive for the
Government to take appropriate action to make an analytical view, to
ascertain the probable reasons on the increase in this crime.
Today one of the major foreign exchange earnings to the country
through private remittances who are employed abroad, of which major
portion is the young women. One has to make a comprehensive and
theoretical study why these young women have been compelled to go
abroad, mostly leaving their husbands, children and loved ones.
They leave them with heavy heart with the pure intention to fulfil
their basic requirements, which they can never dream of in this country
with the prevailing circumstances.
This is a very tragic situation specially for young married couples
who have been deprived of the family lives. Simultaneously some husbands
lead gay lives with the easy money they get but hard earned money sent
by the wives. Some may receive some exorbitant amounts, which they have
never experienced in the fast, and invariably most of them tend to loose
their tracks and get involved in illicit affairs.
In this context the government should not be myopic with the
contentment of drawing the considerable portion of foreign currency
which is much needed to the economy in the country, but detrimental
consequences to the society and to the individuals are certainly much
more than the benefits.
Almost every sector in the society such as parents, schools,
religious leaders and media should play a significant role by
exemplifying and depicting themselves with the moral values in the
In conclusion it is vehemently opposed for the implementation of this
most cruel and inhuman punishment of 'Death Penalty', which also depicts
a certain setback in the mainstream of the country, if they are to adopt
Go for a vote
IMPORTANCE: It is a pity that our motherland does not have what the
majority wants, let it be Governance, law and order, justice,
discipline, quality of leaders, professionals, priority for poor,
children, elders and women.
We as a nation go down in everything as a result and not a single
good thing gets into ground due to a handful of opinion getting
prominence and not what the country and the majority need.
Any child understands the importance and usefulness of Death Penalty
and for that matter more severe punishment than at present for even
So it's very simple. Whenever there is an election or as a separate
vote, let the ballot paper have an additional box for voting for and
against death penalty and the result would be obvious: that is 99.9%
will be for it.
So at least do that way to make this a country to live without fear
and with good discipline.
If we can vote and give powers to politicians in time to time after
1948, why not use the same voting and implement majority decision. What
majority wants is always not correct.
Death penalty - the best choice
RELIGIOUS LAW: I am a Sri Lankan living in Saudi Arabia for the last
19 years and I firmly believe death penalty is the most practical and
reliable choice of punishment in order to irradiate these forms of
Once upon a time Sri Lanka was a country with fewer crimes, but after
the civil war and the introduction to the reality and imaginary tales of
violent movies in the local TV programmes the way of thinking of our Sri
Lankan society has considerably been changed. Currently the high rate of
crime is in the USA.
I have witnessed several cases where persons easily escaped from
major crimes by bribery to government authorities.
I am not favouring a religion or a country's law but unlike our
country, Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic principles of disciplining the
people by following the law of the religion and that is the very reason
the crime rate is far less than any country in the world. Islam is a
religion that shows how to practice what is being learnt in the Quran.
In Saudi Arabia you are not going to find people without limbs on the
roads or everyday someone being beheaded. After few cases of punishments
people refrain themselves from committing such crimes.
These punishments should not take indoors it should be in public. It
is natural that humans sometimes lose control over wealth, greed and
jealousy and start to behave like blood thirsty animals, so it becomes
imperative that such law should be placed in effect to control.
All forms of crimes are growing at high rate in Sri Lanka and it is
very important that this law should be implemented as immediately as
possible. It is not simply a debate, if anyone who is against the notion
of Death Penalty, that simply proves either they are directly or
indirectly involved in such crimes.
With regard to drug, it is a big issue. Not only the drug trafficker
should be put to death it should include the user as well. The user is
the main root for everything, as he start using for himself he will
create other addicts, then it becomes gangs and those gangs when run out
of money they go stealing, and when it fails they never hesitate to kill
So it is very much justified that both parties should be put to
death. When there is no user then there won't be any value for drugs at
all. By putting these few criminals to death we save a huge population.
This law should not only include rape, child abuse, drug, but also
those who favour such criminals and making them escape. Mostly those who
make such criminals escape are some police authorities, and politicians
they should be punished immediately.
My notion goes strongly for Death Penalty to recover our motherland
from emerging criminals.
Fast-tracking access for the disabled
If you read the Daily News regularly, you will notice that we have
allocated a small space on the front page for a Thought for the
Differently Abled. Although it is often just one line, the ideas
expressed therein are significant.
The society tends to forget that the disabled are indeed differently
abled. Although they might be impaired physically, they are equal
partners in society and do have different capabilities.
We recently ran a story on a Japanese schoolteacher born without
limbs who has literally made difference in the Japanese education scene.
Stephen Hawking, the author of the bestseller a Brief History of Time is
wheelchair bound and 'speaks' using a voice synthesizer. In Sri Lanka
too we have many disabled persons who have left their mark in different
We have to make them feel secure and give them a sense of belonging
to the world of the physically able. For that, they have to be given
facilities to access all the places that others frequent. It could even
be a very simple action such as providing subtitles on TV programmes so
that the hearing impaired can enjoy them or providing wheelchair ramps
This brings us to the topic of this month's debate - Fast Tracking
Access for the Disabled. The Government has promulgated that all public
buildings and public facilities should provide access for the
differently abled by 2010.
However, we find that the progress in this direction is too slow both
in the Government and private sectors. With just three years to go for
the deadline, even some newly constructed buildings lack facilities for
We report elsewhere in this newspaper that the Railways will be
installing electronic display devices to help deaf passengers. We hope
it is a first step towards making all public places disabled-friendly.
Nevertheless, much more needs to be done in this sphere.
Retro-fitting disabled friendly facilities at existing buildings will
also be necessary. If you are disabled, gaining access to a public
building or facility in this country is a nightmare. There are no ramps
for wheelchairs in buildings or buses. They cannot use normal washrooms.
Blind people are almost completely neglected in designing and building
On the other hand, even a brief visit to a developed country gives us
an idea on how the differently abled should be treated. From currency
notes that have tactile designs embossed on both sides to help the
visually impaired to buses which can lower their steps to accommodate
wheelchairs, all public facilities are built with the disabled in mind.
No building permits are issued unless such criteria are met. The
wheelchair sign is displayed prominently at many public buildings to
show that they can easily be accessed by the disabled.
As a country that harbours ambitions of becoming a leading economic
power house in the region, Sri Lanka cannot afford to lag behind in this
area. This is why it is imperative to expedite the drive to make all
public places disabled friendly.
Write in to the Daily News debate on this issue, pointing out
existing shortcomings and how more facilities could be created for the
disabled. We are especially keen to hear the views of the differently-abled
in this regard. Send in your contributions (containing 750-1,000 words)
to 'Daily News Debate', Daily News, The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon
Limited, PO Box 1217, Colombo, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
before May 15, 2007.