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    Politics Around The Gallows

    Finally the cog of our judiciary wheel that seems to have stopped at President of India’s doorstep started to turn. It didn’t happened overnight or suo-moto. It required an enormous effort to have this rolling. A howling opposition, a certain terrorist kept at bay from the noose on the pretext of first-come first-serve process, as if we are booking hotel rooms and last but not the least our own Apex court questioning the mechanics of Presidential office functioning.

    A hell lot went in before Pratibha Devising Patil could finally say her no to the mercy petition of two death row convicts. Devender Pal Sing Bhullar and Mahender Nath Das were given a thumb down by the president, in a way making their road to the gallows pretty much clean and obstacle free. Even though the crime committed by these two doesn’t deserve any leniency, let alone any mercy, they still have their judicial right at their disposal to ask for such out of turn favor; and let’s not debate on that. People are doing this bit as the debate is already raging on the veracity of Article-72 of our constitution with many Pundits claiming it error prone. One visible missing point therein is the absence of any timeline. While the article talks about the power of the President to pardon death row convicts, it doesn’t talk how soon or how late it should be carried out. I am not sure how tough or easy it is to add a sub-clause (d) to Clause (1) of the existing article mentioning a defined timeline for the President to respond or else the last verdict of the court to be honored. Let the constitutional experts argue and decide.

    Coming back to the topic – these two men would be the first pair to hang since a certain Dahanajay Chatterjee was send to the gallows back in 2004. But that seems far from happening anytime soon; at least in the case of Mr.Bhullar. Mr.Bhullar was awarded the death penalty by a special TADA court for his involvement in the assassination bid on then Youth Congress president Mr.Bitta. While Mr.Bitta survived the onslaught with serious injuries a dozen innocents lost their lives in the process. If this doesn’t deserve a death penalty then we better abolish the death sentence from our IPC. But there are people who think the other way. For them Mr.Bhullar being in solitary confinement for last 8 odd years as a death row convict way offshoots the threshold of humanity and amounts to torture and mental agony and hence he better have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment instead. Not to mention, the people who are advocating for Mr.Bhullar keeping an eye cemented on the upcoming assembly elections are the politicians of the state of Punjab. All they want at the end of the day is to carry some brownie points to the masses to attract more ballots in their favor. This leads me to ask why we are playing politics around our judiciary and criminals of serious stature.

    Playing politics around the gallows is nothing new for us. Every political party is privy to it and none should be given a clean chit. Either one party wants to hang someone for votes while another tends to protect the convict, pretty much for the same reason, by giving some pathetic excuses. The tug-of-war carries on for years together without any conceivable common ground leaving our constitution as the biggest casualty at the end of the day.

    The case of Afzal Guru is a classic example of our love for politics around someone’s death. With all fairness the man in question shouldn’t be allowed to live another day. The audacity he showed while plotting to attack our identity of democracy and causing few innocent security personnel to lose their lives, deserves nothing less than what he been handed with. By keeping him alive, even after our Apex court made its intentions clear is nothing short of showing disrespect and our oblivious attitude towards all who died in the attack and their family members. It is 6 year since he sent his mercy petition for our President’s consideration and ironically nothing has moved forward since then. This is clear ignorant to the plight of all the sufferers of the attack who dearly want some short of closer to their wounds and some kind of justice been meted out.

    In one hand BJP wants this terrorist dead and allege Congress of protecting him for their vote bank. While the other hand fancy processes and procedures seem to be the norm of the day for our Home Ministry. Among the two dozen mercy petitions cases pending before the President, our home ministry doesn’t find any uniqueness or urgency with Afzal Guru’s case. Hence they claim to follow some never heard first-come first-serve framework. That is funny to say the least. Letters which sought explanation and clearance from various agencies who are stake holder to Guru’s case are been flying to and from the presidential office. Every stone of the case is scrutinized at close quarters to come up with one excuse or the other. Most bizarre of them being the stand of Delhi government. In the fall out of some imminent law-and-order problem (which only Delhi Govt seems to conceive and foresee) post Afzal Guru’s Execution; Shiela Dixit is not too in favor of hanging him. Even for this non-comprehensible explanation of her it took a good 4 years and half a dozen reminders from the home ministry. It is 9 years since our parliament was attacked and we are still counting and seeing none of the convicts being punished. Looking at the speed of our President’s office and that first-come first-serve framework, when we can see Afzal Guru walking down the aisle to the gallows is anybody’s guess. Forget Qasav for the moment.

    Bhullar’s case has got some striking similarity with Guru’s case, except the only difference being the parties which are trying to save this terrorist. First it was the Shiromani Akali Dal which felt hanging Bhullar would be wrong. This ex Khalistan Liberation Force member for them was a victim of the situation and already being punished enough as a death row convict and hence be allowed to live. Not to be left behind in garnering politics around Bhullar the Congress Prdesh committee head Armindar Sing stand by what SAD is asking for and want Bhullar to live further. In a way Armindar Sing is trying to pressurize his own PM to intervene in the mercy plea with all probability scavenging ways and means for his sentence to be scaled down. This has left Congress red faced and in a sticky wicket since they are long being accused of protecting Afzal Guru for no credible reason.

    In the middle of all this chaos there is no sign of BJP yet. Once a vocal party against the so called nexus over Guru’s hanging must have a say in a similar matter. But as expected, since the Aakalis are their own allies BJP prefers to keep mum on Bhullar, as Aakalis as an ally are too precious for BJP to lose, more so when they aren’t left with many in political circle. Hence double standard takes precedence and BJP conveniently side steps to let the two major parties of the state fight it out themselves.

    Everyone including the people who are dramatizing our judiciary decision know the real idea behind such demands or excuses. At the end of the day none is too bothered if Bhullar or Guru live another day or gunned down the next minute as long as either their death or life brings in an increase in the vote count. So in a democratic opinion any of the political parties should be taken with any seriousness when it concerns our constitution and our judiciary. If the law permits and finds it adequate for people like Bhullar, Guru or anyone else to hang then it should be honored without any delay or gimmicks.

    We have played politics with caste, religion, gender, national pride, national game and almost everything that is under the sun. But for heavens, lets refrain ourselves from bringing our judiciary and constitution into this notorious purview. With aught most apologies to Amnesty International and all those politicians who suddenly become the custodians of humanity - When the law decided on someone’s fate, we better not play around it with carrying a heavy baggage of self-greed and notorious personal goals.

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