Sunday, 24 May 2020

Afzal File Hanging In Balance

Updated: June 12, 2010 12:08 pm

When I was in service, I wanted some orders, on an important file, or which, at least, appeared important to me. I had a very good pleasant and hospitable boss, who believed more in gossiping, tossing papers, up and down, and socialising rather than working. After sending a number of reminders, I sought time to meet him. During the meeting he offered me his excellent hospitality, of course, at the Government expenses.

            Whenever I tried to divert the conversation to the subject, on which I wanted his decision, he would side track. Instead of remaining silent, I told him that I wanted his orders. He just smiled and said that I was young and enthusiastic. He classified all files into two categories, the one for passing the time by making the aimless queries and the other for doing the work. He said that the particular file I was referring to was mann lagaane wali file hai.

            I was under the impression that only some bureaucrats play games of tossing the files. I have been proved wrong, on this count, that even the best of politicians play this game. I admit, of course, with more adroitness, under the impression that public memory is short and with the passage of time, instead of taking a decision, putting everything under the carpet, would be the best course.

            The Government of India, has exactly been doing the same, on the mercy petition filed by one of convict names Afzal Guru, in the well known case of attack on the blackest day in Indian History, that is December 13, 2001. It had sent the representation of the convict to Delhi Government for its views and opinions 4 years back and has followed it by 16 reminders.

            Incidentally on August 4, 2005, the Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentence and afterwards October 20, 2006 was fixed for his hanging. Even Delhi Government has washed its hands off, by saying that the implications of the law and order situation, would have to be studied, in case Afzal was hanged. Thus the game of foot balling the problem continues.

            First of all Law and Order in Delhi is a Central subject and is directly under the control of the Central Government. Central Government is in the best position to know as to what is happening in the country and in Delhi, as all intelligence agencies are under its control. Afzal Guru has been held guilty, in helping, in carrying out the attack, which left several members of our security forces dead.

            He has committed a heinous crime on the Indian Nation. For that, his execution does not, have only a symbolic value, but it is essential to send a message, that nobody can commit terrorism and then expect mercy. To say, that his hanging, will lead to a riotous situation in Delhi, or elsewhere, is too pathetic and a shabby excuse. At this rate, even Kasab, butcher of 26/11 in Mumbai, can doge gallows for decades.

            One the one hand, we talk about, zero tolerance, to terrorism and on the other hand discover, newer and newer excuse, to do what should have been done, four years back. Even Islam says the price of blood is blood. Of course, the terrorists supporters in Kashmir are against the hanging and all political parties in valley have jumped on to the bandwagon of “no hanging”.

            Our Nation’s message should be, that anyone who attacks our country and its institutions cannot get away, without retribution. Had the terrorist strike succeeded, many of our elected representatives, would have died a gruesome death. In addition, the message would have gone throughout the world that India was unequipped, ill prepared and incapable of defending its own Parliament.

            Those familiar with the British Parliament’s history may recall that a person by the name of Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up the House of Lords. He was caught and executed. Till this day, November 5, is observed in England as the day to commemorate the foiled attempt.

            The present case has gone through the entire legal process and Afzal found to be guilty of masterminding the Parliament attack by the apex court, which has upheld the death sentence.

            At the rate the Government of India, is going about whether to hang Afzal or not, the Government may like to hold a referendum to get the opinion of every India. The kind of crime committed on our Parliament is one, for which no court in the world would award any lesser sentence. Every conceivable excuse has been used to avoid carrying out the sentence. The main question arises, should sentencing of the accused to any punishment should depend, on what some people feel.

            In our country, any crime right from the smallest, like pick pocketing, traffic offences, municipal laws to murder are regarded as having been committed against the State. As the laws stand, the victim or his heir, have little or no involvement, in the process of bringing wrongdoer or law breaker to justice. A number of committees including Justice Malimath committee has urged this recognition of the victim’s rights. But as such, there have been no “victims’ bill of rights”—a set of basic rights and protections for victims of crime.

            The Government has the power of pardon, under article 161, which unfortunately has been extensively misused. In 2008, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu ordered the premature release of 1,405 life convicts, including 22 women, to mark the birth centenary of DMK founder and former chief minister CN Annadurai on September 15. Almost the same story with a little variation of names and places is being repeated all over the country

            What is the point of dilly dallying, in the guise of their mercy petition being under consideration and keep 53 prisoners on tenterhook, who are facing death sentence.

            Personally I have no objection if any criminal including Kasab or Afzal Guru is pardoned or even given a Bharat Ratna. But whatever needs, to be done, should be done promptly.. Let not the name of the President used, that mercy petition is pending with Rashtrapati Bhavan. Instead say that the Government is sitting over it. The consequences of non punishment can be serious, as it is the Maoists and terrorists are having a free run of the country. The Government, must remember, that it is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.

By Joginder Singh

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