- Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a man convicted of raping and killing a 4-year-old girl
- Court believes that every criminal should be given the chance to improve and become a useful member of society
- The concept of human rights and restorative justice has ended up providing cover for criminal elements
Possibly the foremost goal of any civilisation is protection of women and children. India and its civilizational values are no different. However, the use of the doctrine of human rights in India is slowly drifting us away from this goal. The Supreme Court’s recent ‘humanitarian’ gesture towards a child rapist is another one of those cases where the purpose behind society formation was defeated.
Death sentence commuted to 20 years of punishment
Hon’ble Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a man convicted of raping and killing a 4-year old girl. According to a Bench of Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi, maximum prescribed punishment will prove to be ineffective if the goal is to improve the bankrupt psyche of offenders.
Hon’ble Court said that there is no doubt about the establishment of the guilt of offender Mohd Firoz as the circumstances around crime are so conclusive that only guilt can be derived from them. “Once again one of the most barbaric and ugly human faces has surfaced. A tiny bud-like girl was smothered by the appellant before she could blossom in this world. The monstrous acts of the appellant suffocated the victim to such an extent that she had no option but to leave this world. Once again, all the Constitutional guarantees have failed to protect the victim from the clutches of the demonizing acts of the appellant.” said Court
The court quotes Oscar Wilde
However, the Court refused to hang him for the heinous crime. The Court is of the opinion that this case does not fall in the category of rarest of the rare cases. The Court prescribes death penalty only in the case which falls in the category of rarest of the rare. The Bench opined that Mohd Firoz deserves an opportunity to become an individual who could benefit society in future. Court quoted an Irish poet to support its assertion.
“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. One of the basic principles of restorative justice as developed by this Court over the years, also is to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail. The maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender” said the Bench.
The Bench then proceeded to change the death sentence to punishment for 20 years. “Hence, while balancing the scales of retributive justice and restorative justice, we deem it appropriate to impose upon the appellant-accused, the sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life” announced the Bench comprising of two male and one female judges.
In 2013, Mohd Firoz had kidnapped, raped and then killed a 4 year girl. The trial Court had awarded the death sentence to him, which was later upheld by the Jabalpur High Court.
Court tried to balance restorative and retributive justice
While Commuting the death sentence, the Court tried to balance the rights of the victim as well as that of the convict. The fundamental aspect of the law is that it considers humans to be divine. A person has both good as well as bad characteristics. At a particular time of the day, he may come off as a monster to somebody, while the same person may be called a saint by any other individual.
That is why law assumes that if one wants, he/she can improve his/her character over a period of time. Mainly because of this aspect of human nature that our legal system provides rights to victims as well as barbarians like Mohd Firoz. Law assumes that the man has the capacity to be beneficial to society in the long run.
Humans are not uniform
However, it is not always true. In fact, most of the time, it rarely holds true. Fundamentally, we are one of the animal species finding ways to cut through existential crises. Barbarism is an innate nature of the human psyche. Just watch how aggressive a 2 year old child is. They are in their natural state with newly found power to maneuver the environment around it. They do it through aggression by throwing objects located in their vicinity. They also kick, punch and hit at rapid rate.
Then they are taught to socialize which decreases their aggressive instincts. During teenage years, another burst of hormone erupts, which is again directly correlated to physical aggression. That is why teenage is considered a crucial stage of human development. Through proper guidance, humans learn to channelise their aggression in such a way that it won’t negatively affect society.
Socialisation does not work same on everyone
But, a lot of them do not learn to channelise it. They remain animalistic in their approach. A huge chunk of humans end up on roads with alcohol, substance and other addictions. This leads to loss of psyche control enticing individuals like Mohd Firoz to commit heinous crimes like he did. Apparently, these criminals know what they are doing is wrong, but they do not question themselves.
That is where the concept of looking at criminals from a human angle fails the society. A person who engages in criminal activity after his/her brains have fully developed (beyond 25 years) is not a human in the civilisational sense. These kinds of people are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. Still they choose to do so.
Primarily because in the back of their minds, these criminals know that they will be provided with state protection in the name of human rights. So, effectively the combination of human rights and restorative justice doctrine ends up encouraging criminals instead of providing protection to the victims..
Human rights end up providing cover for criminals
If a person with a rapist tendency knows that the state lets you go scot-free after a few years, he/she will feel encouraged to do so, as there is no deterrence of punishment. The logic is simple, you provide people incentive for committing a crime, they will commit it
On a societal level, it creates more panic in society as people know that criminals will go scot-free no matter what they do. It encourages people to take up arms, undermining the state’s monopoly on violence.
Mohd Firoz was 35 years old when he raped that little angel. He will be above 55 years old when he gets out of jail. He will be a lot older, weaker and of virtually no use to society. Given the fact that Indians have zero tolerance for rapists, it will be next to impossible for him to live a non-stigmatised life (rightly so). Even in the job market he will be outcompeted by his younger folks.
Frankly, I fail to understand how the judiciary thought a child rapist will come out of jail as an improved person, that too at 55 years of age. He will only be a burden on society. On the other hand, the Court seems to not have pondered over the human rights of the child’s parents. It should also have been considered that how would they feel if they watch their child’s rapists walking free. The judgement is a triumph of individual rights over larger societal gains.