"openly condemned the death penalty on two grounds: first, because the state does not possess the right to take lives; and secondly, because capital punishment is neither a useful nor a necessary form of punishment"
The article goes on to say:
"Beccaria developed in his treatise a number of innovative and influential principles:
- punishment had a preventive (deterrent), not a retributive, function;
- punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed;
- the probability of punishment, not its severity, would achieve the preventive effect;
- procedures of criminal convictions should be public; and finally,
- in order to be effective, punishment should be prompt"
I fear that few in India, even among the highly educated, have reflected on principles of natural justice or tried to understand penology. Indeed, as a society we are not really past the mob lynching stage. With the most minimal factual information, people will recommend the death penalty for anything that makes their blood boil. I've had the unpleasant experience of arguing at length with Facebook friends who feel that rapists, for example, should be hanged. I understand their anger but they rarely seem to understand that justice delivered in anger is not justice. They also don't understand that the principles one is arguing over do not imply any particular "sympathy for the accused", they are principles and have nothing to do with any specific accused.
I would suggest (to whom?) that in India we have more well-informed discussions and debates on justice and on penology, and slowly try to move our society in the direction of abolishing capital punishment. But let's not have these discussions in the context of a horrific case like the 1993 blasts or the Delhi gang-rape. The discussions need to be rational and free of an emotional background.
So, back to the late Yakub Memon. If anyone simply says that whatever he may be guilty of, they don’t believe in capital punishment and therefore he shouldn't have been hanged, then I fully agree. Indeed this is my precise view. But some very strange things have been said about this case on social media. First of all, a view has circulated that he was hanged merely for being the brother of a criminal. However the charges against him are rather explicit according to this article in the Hindustan Times:
I cannot verify that these are the exact charges, nor can I be certain that he was indeed guilty of them. And I sense that among many liberal thinkers there is a suspicion the courts were biased in condemning him to death, or that they did so based on insufficient evidence. But (given that we are not party to additional information) we must also contemplate the possibility that he really did everything listed above. If so, he was aware that large numbers of innocent people were going to die in bomb blasts and he materially conspired to make this happen. For this, it seems quite clear he would be deserving of the highest punishment in the land. In this context I disagree with a lot of the whataboutism going on these days: what about Maya Kodnani? what about the Staines killers? what about anti-Sikh riots and Gujarat riots? Well what about them indeed. If anyone implicated in those events was wrongly acquitted, bailed or whatever, that would be a miscarriage or delay of justice and it should certainly be talked about or challenged. But this is no reason to deny Yakub Memon the maximum punishment for knowingly conspiring in a truly awful crime.