Over 400 persons have endorsed a third party mercy petition seeking commutation of the death sentence handed out to the four men convicted in December 16, 2012, gangrape and murder. The third-party mercy petition for Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, and Pawan Gupta has been endorsed by lawyers, activists, and researchers from India and abroad.
“It is naive in the extreme to think the death penalty is the solution. It is not a greater deterrent than life imprisonment, as noted by the Law Commission when it recommended its abolition. Even the Justice Verma Committee, constituted in the wake of this very crime, eschewed the death penalty for its futility. Even if we were to execute rapists in rarest of rare cases, it would do little to address our society’s deep-rooted patriarchal ethos,” the plea, that will be sent to President Ramnath Kovind Thursday, states.
The signatories include lawyers Yug Chaudhry, Indira Jaising, Ragini Ahuja, sociologist Kalpana Kannabiran, activists Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and economist Jean Dreze, among others.
The two-page petition states that the four convicts “have been sentenced to death for having raped, brutalized and killed a 23-year-old woman in an exceedingly cruel and barbaric way. Their executions are meant to promote justice and women’s safety by deterring such crimes. It is our sincere belief that they will achieve neither… The performance that is an execution -the cold bodies, broken necks, soiled clothes, and the smell of excrement – will not compensate in any way the lives lost on 16 December 2012. Neither she nor her memory can be honoured with four more mangled bodies. To honour her, we must address the structural causes of gender violence and crime in our society. Hanging only degrades the sanctity of life that was so inhumanly violated that winter’s night.”
The signatories have stated that violence against women that is endemic in the country and in popular discourse needs to be addressed. “The death penalty engenders the false belief that killing these men will eradicate sexual violence, or at least drastically reduce it,” the petition states.
“It is this normalisation of patriarchy and rape culture that needs to be addressed. Unless we do so urgently, we cannot claim that we are troubled by the extent of violence against women in our society. As of now, we have not even implemented the Justice Verma Committee recommendations or utilised a fraction of the Nirbhaya Fund,” the petition states.
Urging the President to reduce the death sentences of the convicts to life imprisonment, the mercy petition concludes, “The death penalty creates an illusory distance between ourselves and men such as the present convicts, as if they were aliens and have nothing to do with us and our society. We shun them, as we do a beggar, not because they disgust us but because they remind us of the worst within ourselves. As a consequence, we resort to the death penalty in an effort to obliterate them – as we would a guilty memory – and cleanse ourselves. Alive, they rebuke us. Do we really believe that an egalitarian society respecting the dignity and autonomy of women can arise from the debris of these four men?”
The four were convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013. The conviction and sentencing were upheld by the High Court and Supreme Court. The top court had also dismissed their pleas seeking review of the confirmation order.
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