Gandhi meets the grotesque in court
IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI
New Delhi, Sept. 11: Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi….
The unlikeliest of legacies and parallels were frog-marched through the courtroom today as the defence sought leniency for the convicts in the Delhi gang rape and murder case.
“I cannot in all conscience agree to anyone being sent to the gallows. God alone can take life because He alone gives it,” said A.P. Singh, the counsel for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, quoting the apostle of peace against the backdrop of one of the most brutal crimes in the country.
Special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan, however, sought the death penalty for the four convicts, saying that a lighter punishment will rob the people’s trust in the judicial system.
“If death is not given, the society will lose faith in the judicial system,” Krishnan said.
“If the maximum sentence is not given, the message will go to the society that deviance of this nature will be tolerated. This is an extreme case of depravity and sexual assault…. The act to damage the girl’s intestines intentionally leaves no scope of sympathy.
“We will tell the society that this degree of deviance will not be tolerated. The sentence which is appropriate is nothing short of death,” Krishnan added.
He countered the defence plea that the convicts should be given a chance to reform themselves. “They deserve no sympathy. The society as a whole feels that no woman in the country is safe today,” the prosecutor said.
The court will pronounce the sentence on Friday afternoon.
Defence lawyer Singh reminded the court that India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi. “How can this court violate the principles of Gandhiji by awarding the death penalty? He taught us to protest against any kind of violence,” Singh said.
Judge Yogesh Khanna cut in.
“I think you are asking for complete abolition of the death penalty. I do not have any right to say anything as you have to approach another forum seeking constitutional amendments. This is not in my hand,” Khanna said.
Singh apologised to the judge and asked whether killing rapists will make streets safer for women in India. “Will there be no terror attacks even though Ajmal Kasab was given capital punishment? Will death penalty end crime?” Singh asked.
“Indira Gandhi’s assassins were awarded the death penalty but that did not stop the assassination of her son Rajiv Gandhi,” he said, adding that several MPs are facing criminal charges, including rape, but no fast-track courts were set up to try them.
“When it comes to a case where poor people are involved, the government immediately sets up fast-track courts. What kind of message is the government sending?” Singh asked, referring to the prosecution’s argument that the death penalty would send an exemplary message.
Asked why he invoked Gandhi, Singh told this reporter later: “My argument was based on the principles of Gandhiji and nobody has the courage to challenge Bapuji.”
The prosecution said the four violated the girl with deliberate and unspeakable savagery.
“This falls under the rarest of rare case. They lured the victim and her friend in the bus, beat them up and raped her. They tortured her…. She kept pleading but they dragged them naked, threw them from the moving bus and then tried to overrun them. None among the convicts was moved by the girl’s incessant cries for mercy,” Krishnan said.
The prosecutor rejected the defence counsel’s plea to give them a chance to reform themselves.
“They don’t carry any element of sympathy on the ground of reformation and young age. Their crime is not only grotesque and diabolic in nature but the barbaric behaviour was of the highest kind. Maximum sentence has to be given…,” Krishnan said.
The counsel for Pawan Gupta said he was the youngest (19) among the four and could be reformed. “Judges should not be bloodthirsty and they should exercise their discretion before awarding the death penalty,” said counsel Vivek Sharma. ( )