I recently came across a news item, where a lawyer was forced to give a written statement that he would not represent Kasab, the lone arrested terrorist of the Mumbai attacks, by activists of the Shiv Sena. A blogger asks why we must not skin him alive, because the public is baying for blood. He is outraged that we are actually talking legal action against someone who was seen massacring people on camera. Now, there are two things to consider in this issue. The first is firmness in dealing with terror. The second is respect for the rule of law.
Rohit, in his blog on Nationalinterest clearly argues that this is not the way to fight terror. I agree.
The first of the concepts is firmness in handling terror. India can show the world it is firm by bringing the culprits to justice. And bringing them to justice through the due process of law. Lynching, skinning him alive, killing him in a fake encounter or throwing him to hungry lions will not do the job. After all, there must be something distinguishing India from the terrorists. That something is its justice system. I am not saying that India’s criminal justice system is infallible. I am just saying saying, let’s save what we have. It is easy to get carried away and demand an eye for an eye when we are angry. But an eye for an eye is not bring back our lost eye. Of course Kasab must be brought to justice. But, this time the evidence is watertight. The judgement will surely be favourable to the victims. He will be punished. But, to argue that we must not contemplate legal action but hand him to wild dogs is unacceptable in any democracy. If there is one thing we must pride ourselves on, it is our democratic system. To behave in such a barbaric fashion would amount to compromising the basic principles that India represents. On that note, read this excellent article by Salil Tripathi.
If philosophy and justice do not appeal to the likes of Roshan (the blogger who calls for blood), I think one simple technical detail will. Our criminal justice system is founded on the British Common Law principle. If an accused is not represented in a trial, and if he refuses to defend himself, he can be released and walk scot-free. Indian jurisprudence speaks of such a situation. The course before us is now clear. We allow our best lawyers to defend Kasab, but still mete out the sternest punishment to the man who massacred before our very eyes. After all, that is only fair. Kasab will be punished, but not by throwing him to hungry lions. The courts will still be the supreme deciding authorities. The rule of law will still prevail. After all, that is what we fought long and hard for. And that, to me, is what distinguishes us from Pakistan.
Edit: Dr. Roshan, whose blog I linked to in the first paragraph, has changed his mind. He accepts he was frustrated and that his was a knee-jerk reaction. I will only say this. Thanks for understanding Dr. Roshan. 🙂