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Vote bank politics over 'clemency'

By Varad Varenya
September 13, 2011 18:19 IST
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Whether it is clemency for Rajiv Gandhi killers or Afzal guru or Bhullar; the motive behind this 'clemency' is same -- vote bank politics. The punishment whether life term, death sentence etc needs to be carried out, says Varad Varenya.

The passing of resolution by Tamil Nadu assembly seeking clemency for killers of Rajiv Gandhi has set a wrong precedent. The resolution was moved by none other than state Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and was passed unanimously on August 30.

On the same day the Madras high court deferred by eight weeks the execution of Rajiv Gandhi's killers -- Murugan alias Sriharan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu. The three convicts were to be put to death on September 9. The bench admitted the petition observing that since that was a 11-year delay in the disposal of the mercy petition, it is now a question of law. Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The assassination was carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Pro-Tamil organisations like Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, and Paattali Makkal Katchi have been demanding the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment. MDMK leader Vaiko has been in the forefront on this issue. But families of victims who were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi want the killers to be hanged.

It seems so as to appease some sections; the Tamil Nadu assembly has passed a resolution which in a way expresses solidarity with the three killers who assassinated our former prime minister.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu assembly resolution, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who is MLA from Langate constituency of Kupwara district, submitted a resolution to the J&K Speaker, seeking mercy for Afzal Guru, an accused in the attack on Indian Parliament. The resolution will be tabled before the state assembly in the last week of the month.

In his resolution, Rashid said, "Let the house resolve that Afzal Guru be granted amnesty, on humanitarian grounds, against the death sentence granted to him by the Supreme Court of India, for his alleged involvement in the December 13, 2001 attack on Indian parliament."

Isn't it astounding that some of our politicians want clemency for the terrorists/killers? Think of those people who get killed in attacks. In the Parliament attack, seven people were killed including five policemen and more than 20 were injured. Weren't their lives important? The attack on Parliament was an attack on our democracy. Also, some sections in J&K state are apprehensive that if Afzal Guru is hanged, it will create a law and order problem. Well, many people in Kashmir valley are not in favour of execution of Afzal Guru due to 'obvious' reasons.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Badal has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking pardon for Devinder Singh Bhullar, a Khalistan Liberation Force leader, who is sentenced to death. Bhullar was sentenced to death for masterminding a 1993 car bomb attack in New Delhi that killed 12 people. Former Indian Youth Congress President M.S. Bitta was seriously injured. Various Sikh organisations – the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and even former Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh have supported the demand. It should be noted that Punjab assembly elections are due in February 2012. In order to keep their vote bank intact, several parties/groups in Punjab want mercy for Bhullar.

Our judiciary provides enough scope for the convict to challenge the verdict of the trial court to the high court and then the Supreme Court. Even if the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence, one can appeal to the President for mercy. After all this, there should be no two views on the final verdict. Although the state assembly resolution is not binding on any institution as stated by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, a wrong example has been set. Seeking review of judicial verdict impelled by vote bank politics is not the right thing to do.

Whether it is clemency for Rajiv Gandhi killers or Afzal guru or Bhullar; the motive behind this 'clemency' is same -- vote bank politics. The punishment whether life term, death sentence etc needs to be carried out. Let the sentiments remain as sentiments and not be set up as precedents.

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