Hanging In India: Letter To A Prison Doctor #deathpenalty


By N. Jayaram

 

19 February, 2013
Countercurrents.org

Dr Vasant Yamakanmaradi, medical officer of the Central Prison, Hindalga (Belgaum), said the four convicts are both mentally and physically healthy. “We have been regularly conducting their health check-up to ensure they are fit to be executed,” he said. “All convicts have been informed about their execution.” (1)

The jail authorities began preparations for the executions after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of Veerappan’s brother Jnanaprakash, Bilavendra, Simon and Meesekar Madaiah last week.

Dear Dr Yamakanmaradi,

Assuming that you’re accurately quoted – and it is mostly likely you have been as another newspaper has also done so while spelling your name differently, it is good to know that you have been checking the health of the four convicts regularly. (2)

I wonder whether you have also been talking to the convicts doctor. Do you talk to them as just living beings that need to be kept alive until the Indian state can snuff out their lives?

Or do you see them as human beings – sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, friends, colleagues, carers of cows and dogs also perhaps? In other words as people – strange thought this – such as you and I? People who – if the criminal justice system got it right – were associated with a notorious gangster, who were caught, convicted, sentenced to death and spent more than eight years in prison, perhaps coming around to believing that their lives will be spared? In many of the shrinking number of countries that retain the death penalty, an eight-year wait would have led to commutation.

The four condemned in your prison claim to be innocent – and the best criminal justice systems in the world, including those in Europe and North America have thrown up numerous cases of miscarriages of justice.

Does it bother you that you might be helping in preparing to hang people who might well be telling the truth when they claim to be innocent? Or are do you believe Indian policemen and security forces always catch the right people and scrupulously adhere to the letter of the law? Surely you know of rampant encounter killings? If not, I invite you to read the reports of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Network, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a host of other NGOs.

Have you read the famous essay, “A Hanging” by George Orwell, doctor? (3) It is not only one of the best essays in the English language, the subject of classroom study around the world. It is also a powerful record by a fine mind watching the process of a hanging under British colonialism. Here’s an excerpt, but I recommend reading the full version:

It was about forty yards to the gallows… At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming–all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone–one mind less, one world less.

Have you taken the Hippocratic oath or a version thereof, doctor? (4) Perhaps you have a copy with you? Here is a reminder of three lines in the oath:

• Even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of Humanity.

• I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.

• The health of my patient will be my first consideration.

NB: “…religion, nationality, party politics or social standing”. The Indian state has in recent months executed a Pakistani Muslim convicted of the 2008 Bombay attacks and a Kashmiri Muslim recently for his alleged role – never conclusively proven – in the 2001 Parliament attacks in New Delhi. The Supreme Court thought the death penalty for Afzal Guru was needed to satisfy the “collective conscience of the society”. The lives of Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and several others convicted of their role in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 were – rightly in the opinion of those opposed to the death penalty – spared by the good judge Jyotsna Yagnik. Do you, doctor, ask yourself why it is that the indigent, the minorities, the Dalits and the lower castes pack death row?

Do you think preparing prisoners, checking on their health, taking their pulse with the purpose of overseeing their death is in consonance with the oath you took when you entered the profession, doctor?

Perhaps you do believe in the rightness of the death penalty in some cases. But do you seriously think each of the hundreds now on death row in India deserves to die? Do go through an exceedingly well thought out essay by a leading surgeon and writer in the United States, who is of Indian origin, who does believe in the death penalty in certain cases. Dr Atul Gawande is the award-winning author of books such as Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science (2002), Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (2007) and The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2009).

In a March 2006 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “When Law and Ethics Collide – Why Physicians Participate in Executions”, he has noted that the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and other professional bodies are opposed to doctors taking part in putting convicts to death. The ASA president is quoted as saying, “Physicians are healers, not executioners”. (5)

Again, an excerpt to whet your appetite:

In 1980 … the AMA passed a resolution against physician participation as a violation of core medical ethics. It affirmed that ban in detail in its 1992 Code of Medical Ethics. Article 2.06 states, “A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution,” although an individual physician’s opinion about capital punishment remains “the personal moral decision of the individual.” It states that unacceptable participation includes prescribing or administering medications as part of the execution procedure, monitoring vital signs, rendering technical advice, selecting injection sites, starting or supervising placement of intravenous lines, or simply being present as a physician. Pronouncing death is also considered unacceptable, because the physician is not permitted to revive the prisoner if he or she is found to be alive. Only two actions were acceptable: provision at the prisoner’s request of a sedative to calm anxiety beforehand and certification of death after another person had pronounced it.

The code of ethics of the Society of Correctional Physicians establishes an even stricter ban: “The correctional health professional shall… not be involved in any aspect of execution of the death penalty.” The American Nurses Association (ANA) has adopted a similar prohibition. Only the national pharmacists’ society, the American Pharmaceutical Association, permits involvement…

Perhaps you would say, “what can I do, orders are orders”? Harsh Mander, a former officer of the Indian Administrative Service who eventually went back to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy in Mussoorie which trains civil servants, has written extensively about the right and duty of officials to dissent in the face of injustice. Have you read his columns in The Hindu and other newspapers, doctor? Just google them. Most instructive.

The Supreme Court has given a stay of execution until Wednesday and it is to be hoped the constitutionality of the practice will be considered afresh. You can then get back to the health of the four with a view to doing what your oath enjoined you to do – preserving them in good health, not participating in their death.

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/ 

Notes

1. “ Belgaum jail awaits hanging orders for Veerappan aides” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Belgaum-jail-awaits-hanging-orders-for-Veerappan-aides/articleshow/18550276.cms

2. “Veerappan aides’ fate still hanging” http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130218/news-current-affairs/article/veerappan-aides-fate-still-hanging

3. “A Hanging” by George Orwell, http://www.george-orwell.org/A_Hanging/0.html . There is also an audio version http://thelongestchapter.com/tag/a-hanging/

4. Indian Medical Association: Medical Oath http://www.ima-india.org/IMA_medical_oath.html

5. “ When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions ” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp068042

#India has 477 people on death row- shocker ? #deathpenalty


Rope
Dec13, BBC
India allows the death penalty for the ‘rarest of rare’ crimes

There are 477 convicts on death row in India, the government says.

The information was revealed in the Rajya Sabha [the upper house of the parliament] in response to a question on the number of convicts on death row in Indian jails.

Indian courts hand out capital punishment in the “rarest of rare” cases, but it is rarely carried out.

Last month, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged.

The Pakistani national was executed in the Yerawada prison in Pune on 21 November after his plea for mercy to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was rejected.

He became the second person to be executed since 1995 through death by hanging. A man convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl was hanged in the eastern city of Calcutta in 2004.

According to the latest data revealed by the Indian government on Wednesday, with 174 people on death row, the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of prisoners awaiting death sentence.

The southern state of Karnataka with 61 convicts awaiting hanging is the second on the list.

At number three is the western state of Maharashtra with 50 convicts while Bihar is at the fourth place with 37 awaiting their death sentences.

Amnesty asks India to abolish #deathpenalty, put moratorium on executions


13 December, 2012 | 13:13

Amnesty asks India to abolish death sentence

Amnesty asks India to abolish death sentence

Amnesty International has asked India to abolish death sentence and put immediate moratorium on execution.

New Delhi, Dec 13/Nationalturk -The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has written to Indian President Pranab Mukheree and sought abolishing of death sentence and immediate moratorium on executions.

In the letter, Chief Executive Amnesty International G Ananthapadmanabhan  referred to the recent execution of Ajmal  Kasab, Pakistani gunman, who was caught alive during 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Kasab was executed by Indian authorities in a jail in Pune in Indian city ofMumbaion November 21 year

“Kasab had committed grave and serious offences, and Amnesty had consistently expressed its sympathies and condolence to the victims of his actions and their families. However, by executing him, the Indian state has violated the internationally recognized right to life and has signalled a step away from the regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty,” Ananthapadmanabhan said  .

As of today, 140 countries in the world have abolished death penalty in law or practice. Most recently,Mongoliabecame the 140th country to join this group by becoming a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, on 13 March 2012. In the Asia-Pacific region, 17 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and one –Fiji– uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

“Amnesty is concerned about the manner in which Indian authorities carried out Ajmal Kasab’s execution on November 21,” Ananthapadmanabhan said.

He said according to reports, Ajmal Kasab himself was only informed of this rejection on 12 November. “It is unclear whether he was aware of the possibility of seeking a review of your decision. Information about the rejection of the petition for mercy and the date of execution was not made available to the public until after the execution had been carried out. Authorities inIndiahave made public claims that this lack of public announcement and secrecy surrounding the execution were to avoid intervention by human rights activists.”

He said this practice is in contrast to how previous executions have been carried out inIndiaover the past 15 years. “Information regarding the executions of Dhananjoy Chatterjee (2004), and Shankar (1995), for example, was accessible to the public in advance of the execution.”

“Transparency on the use of the death penalty is among the fundamental safeguards of due process that prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life. Making information public with regard to legislation providing for the death penalty as well as its implementation allows for an assessment of whether fair trial and other international standards are being respected. In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights called upon all states that still maintain the death penalty “to make available to the public information with regard to the imposition of the death penalty and to any scheduled execution,” Ananthapadmanabhan.

He said Amnesty International finds it disappointing that theIndianStatehas chosen to carry out Ajmal Kasab’s execution in this manner, especially as secrecy was not the practice in execution in the country.

Amnesty concerned about nine petitions

Ananthapadmanabhan said Amnesty International is concerned about nine petitions for mercy involving 14 individuals that have been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration for a second time, which we understand is usual practice when there is a new minister in office.

On 10 December 2012, Indian Minister of Home Affairs told reporters that he will review the petitions before him after the end of the winter session of Parliament. One of these petitions concerns Mohammad Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack.  Mohammad Afzal Guru was tried by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“Amnesty International has found that these trials did not conform withIndia’s obligations under international human rights law. Amnesty opposes death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. It opposes it as a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” Ananthapadmanabhan said.

Abolition of death penalty recognized in international law and standards

He said the desirability of the abolition of the death penalty has long been recognized in international law and standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to whichIndiais a State Party and which allows for the use of the death penalty under certain circumstances, clearly states in Article 6.6 that no provision in Article 6 should be invoked “to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment.”

Use of death penalty in India riddled with systematic flaws

“The use of the death penalty inIndiais riddled with systemic flaws. Of particular concern are: the broad definition of “terrorist acts” for which the death penalty can be imposed; insufficient safeguards on arrest; obstacles to confidential communication with counsel; insufficient independence of special courts from executive power; insufficient safeguards for the presumption of innocence; provisions for discretionary closed trials; sweeping provisions to keep secret the identity of witnesses; and limits on the right to review by a higher tribunal,” he said.

He urged Indian government to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment and halt plans to carry out further executions, and establish an official moratorium on executions as the first step to abolishing the death penalty.

“Wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, respect the practice of promptly informing the individual, his/ her lawyers, his/ her family, of the decision, reasons for the decision, and proposed date of execution, as well as the public, of any scheduled execution,” added Amnesty chief executive.

Write your comments and thoughts below

Faiz Ahmad / NationalTurk India News

 

 

A 26/11 victim who refuses to celebrate Kasab’s execution


NOVEMBER 22, 2012
by , Kafila

While the media has reported most families of those who died in 26/11 as hailing the execution of Ajmal Kasab, Bollywood actor Ashish Chowdhry refuses to be one of them. His sister Monica and her husband were amongst those who were killed at the Oberoi trident hotel. Given below are screenshots of Chowdhary’s tweets. Read from the last tweet upwards.

 

Remembering Shahid Azmi: Can the Love of Justice be Assassinated ?


November 24, 2012
Kafila

Guest Post by Arvind Narrain & Saumya Uma*

Progressive lawyers, social activists and academics have invested much time in trying to puzzle out what is the progressive potential of law. Sometimes, answers to deep philosophical questions emerge from a single life. Shahid Azmi’s life   (1977-2010) exemplifies one answer to this perennial question. It was a life which took to the legal profession with the objective of using  law as a shield and tool in the quest for justice. It was also a life which was tragically cut short, when Shahid Azmi was assassinated  at the  age of thirty three.

 

Shahid entered the legal profession, emerging out of a crucible of experiences which few people have had. At the age of sixteen, in the midst of the Mumbai communal violence of 1992-93, he faced violence from the mob, courageously confronted  a policeman who was threatening to shoot a woman and thereafter did relief work in  the Muslim community. Disillusioned by the way Muslims were targeted in Mumbai 1992-93,  he then left to Kashmir with the aim of joining the militants. Unhappy with that experience, he  returned to  Mumbai.

In December 1999, he was  arrested by the Mumbai police and taken to Delhi where he was implicated in a plot to assassinate politicians including  Bal Thackeray.  He was in jail for five  years, during  which he experienced various forms of physical and mental torture as well as several months of solitary confinement. According to Shahid’s brother, Khalid Azmi, in Tihar jail, Shahid was told by one of his co-prisoners: “There are two ways in life: one is to take to the gun to assert your rights, but that is the wrong path. You can also take a pen and fight your enemies till your death. Which path you decide is in your hands.” Shahid was also encouraged by Kiran Bedi  to study.  He completed his twelfth standard as well as a  B.A. while in Tihar  jail. He was subsequently acquitted by the Supreme Court.  On his release, at the  age of twenty two, he was determined  to continue the struggle against injustice.  For this reason, he studied and completed  a course in both journalism and law.

Shahid Azmi’s journey from the Mumbai slums to courts is unique. His life in Govandi in  Mumbai, where he was raised in a lower middle-class woman-headed family with four brothers, taught him the meaning of poverty and deprivation; the communal violence in Mumbai made him conscious of the vulnerability of Muslims in a climate charged with religious fundamentalism; his experiences in the Tihar jail gave birth to a feeling,  that perhaps law was a tool in the struggle against oppression. Shahid did not have the advantage of an affluent family, a law degree from a renowned university or clientele which was passed down from other family members. He stepped into the helms of the legal profession with a baggage of disadvantages, including the fact that his Muslim identity and the history of imprisonment put him on the radar of the police for several years after his release from jail.

As a lawyer in his brief but impressive career of seven years, he represented those who were falsely accused of  terror charges by an Indian state all too willing to tar innocents with the brush of terrorism. The iconic case in Shahid’s legal career was the trial in the Mumbai terror attacks of 26 November 2008. Shahid represented Faheem Ansari who was a co-accused along with Ajmal Kasab.

Shahid’s sharpness and brilliance as a criminal lawyer was instrumental in securing the acquittal. In  Khalid’s opinion,  Shahid was able to cast reasonable doubt on the case of the prosecution that Faheem Ansari was indeed involved in the attack at all. The state’s case was that Faheem prepared the map,  went to Nepal and forwarded it to Sabauddin who forwarded it to Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) or Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the map was shown as recovered from the pocket of Abu Ismail – who was killed in the same encounter in which Ajmal Kasab was taken into custody.  Shahid’s argument was that Faheem never prepared a map, and that at the relevant time , Faheem was in Lucknow jail. Shahid highlighted to the court  that  the map which was shown as being recovered was a fresh map and did not even have folds on it. There was not a single drop of blood on it, which was most strange, if it had actually been recovered from the pocket of Abu Ismail. The map is supposed to have changed many hands, and  travelled from Nepal to Pakistan and from Pakistan via sea to Mumbai and was yet creaseless and had not become soft due to the sea’s humidity. Shahid also questioned the need for a hand-drawn map in the age of computers, as well as writings with two different inks on the panchnama – indicative of manipulation of evidence. The cross-examination of  Shahid ensured that Faheem was acquitted by the  trial court. Unfortunately Shahid was killed some months before the order of acquittal dated 3 August 2010. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court concurred with the findings of the sessions court subsequently.

Shahid  represented the accused  in other  cases such as  the Ghatkopar bus bombing case of 2002, Malegaon blast case of 2006,  Aurangabad arms haul case of 2006 and Mumbai train blasts of 2006. Shahid also took up the cases of 64 suspected operatives of the Indian Mujahideen involved in the Ahmedabad terror strikes of 2008.  He argued that the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) should  be used for organized crime but not for terror cases. He argued that Section 2 (1)(e) of MCOCA which focuses on “causing insurgency” could not be justified solely on the basis of confession unless corroborated by circumstantial  evidence.  The Supreme Court responded positively and stayed the trials in Malegaon blasts case, Mumbai train blasts case and Aurangabad arms haul cases.

Shahid alleged custodial torture of persons accused in the Mumbai train blasts case, in Arthur Road jail and petitioned the Bombay High Court in July 2008.  The High Court ordered an inquiry and found his allegations to be true, and held that jail superintendent Swati Sathe was responsible for supervising and directly perpetuating  the torture.  Strictures were passed against her by the court and predictably, she was transferred without loss of pay. Shahid was also successful in preventing the screening of the film ‘Black Friday’ until completion of the trial into the 1993 attacks, in order not to prejudice the mind of the public or the courts.  Unfairly named as a ‘terrorist’s lawyer’, he did not confine his work to anti-terror cases, but worked for asserting the rights of the poor who were ousted when Mithi river was beautified  as well as slum dwellers whose houses were being demolished. The numerous people who sought his legal assistance and  the late hours which Shahid kept are testimony to his commitment as well as his courageous advocacy.

The words of Roy Black – an American criminal defense lawyer – were pinned on Shahid’s desk and inspired him till the day of his death. It aptly summed up the principles Shahid stood by in his life:

“By showing me injustice, he taught me to love justice. By teaching me what pain and humiliation were all about, he awakened my heart to mercy.  Through these hardships I learned hard lessons. Fight against prejudice, battle the oppressors, support the underdog. Question authority, shake up the system, never be discouraged by hard times and hard people.  Embrace those who are placed last, to whom even bottom looks like up.  It took me some time to find my mission in life – that of a criminal defense lawyer. But that ‘school’, and that Teacher, put me on my true path.  I will never be discouraged. Even thorns and thistles can teach you something, and lead to success.”.

Perhaps emblematic of the impossibility of extinguishing the ideal for which Shahid stood for is the path taken by his youngest brother Khalid. Khalid was inspired to study law by Shahid, who told him that sooner or later he would be killed and that ‘if something happens to me you should carry forward the work’.  It was barely four months after Khalid completed studying law that Shahid was shot dead in his office in Kurla. The responsibility  fell on Khalid to take up his brother’s cases and complete them.

The time following Shahid’s assassination was a time of fear, with many advocates unwilling to take on Shahid’s cases. However Khalid ensured that there was a continuity in his brother’s work by first appointing counsel after much difficulty, and thereafter arguing the cases himself.  He  simultaneously  built a team of young and committed lawyers to carry forward  the sensitive and life-threatening work. Khalid himself is  barely thirty years of age and seems too young to discharge such an enormous responsibility.  When asked  whether he was ever afraid that he too could be killed,   Khalid responded:  ‘I have never felt a fear because I have nothing to lose. I have lost my brother – that means that I have lost everything.’ It is also admirable that their mother, Rehana Azmi, after losing one son, extends  consistent support to the work of the other son in the perilous path of justice, while the eldest brother, Arif Azmi, quietly backs his family.

Shahid’s story also  spoke directly to film director, Hansal Mehta and producer Anurag Kashyap, who  recently completed  a film on Shahid’s life, titled ‘Shahid’. A Shahid Azmi memorial lecture has also been commenced in February 2012. These will,  perhaps,  inspire many others to take forward the legacy of Shahid.

The question which his killers need to ponder on is –  Did you kill the desire for justice by killing Shahid Azmi? Shahid’s assassination may have created an initial fear and insecurity among defence lawyers handling similar cases.  But today, it has inspired numerous Muslim youth in the locality where he worked and was killed,  to study law and enter the legal profession, to carry forward the ideals that Shahid stood for.  This, despite the clear and imminent danger to their own lives, which they are acutely conscious of. In a manner similar to the shooting of Malala Yousufzai that has strengthened the determination of girls to access education, the killing of Shahid has given a new lease of life to his work – from within an underprivileged community of Mumbai that has long been wronged by state agencies and fundamentalist groups alike.  The assassination  of Shahid, instead of killing the work that he had undertaken, has only succeeded in multiplying  the quest for justice in innumerable hearts and minds.

* Arvind Narrain is a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum.  Saumya Uma is an independent researcher on gender, law and human rights.

 

Need to rethink death penalty, says Shinde


Express news service : Mumbai, Mon Nov 26 2012, 01:34 hrs
FP

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Sunday that the government needs to “rethink” its policy on capital punishment.

Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme organised by Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper of The Indian Express Group, Shinde said: “We need to rethink. We (the government and Rashtrapati Bhavan) received a representation from 13-14 eminent Indian persons yesterday demanding a ban on death penalty. There should not be cruelty. They said these convicts (should) be made to serve in jail and need not be released on parole.”

Shinde’s statement comes just days after 26/11 terror attack convict Ajmal Amir Kasab was hanged.

The Home Minister, however, added that in Kasab’s case, the question of “cruelty” did not arise as he was part of the team that killed 166 people in Mumbai.

On the other terror convict on death row, Afzal Guru, Shinde said the home ministry had received the file on his mercy petition from Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday.

“The file has been sent to me yesterday, but I have not read it yet. We will take a decision after examining all legal angles,” he said.

Shinde said there are several letters from the international community too stating that there should not be capital punishment. “For many years, there has been a thought process. We need to rethink,” he added.

Last week, India opposed a resolution in the UN general assembly seeking abolition of death penalty. While 110 countries supported the resolution, India, China, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan and the US were among the 39 countries which opposed it.

 

‘Will not contest polls’

“I do not wish to contest elections in 2014. I have got much from the Congress and reached this post. I want to retire,” said Union Home Minister and veteran Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, adding that he does not wish to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha either.

Pakistan nationals will be able to roam freely in India soon


Map indicating locations of Pakistan and India

Image via Wikipedia

7H FEB, 2012

In a bid to ensure more people to people contact, India is contemplating easing visa regulation for Pakistan nationals. With the cabinet note on the issue set to be tabled in a few days, it might be a couple of weeks before visa regulations are eased.

The new regulation ensures that Pakistan nationals on a visiting visa have wider access to the country, the new norms will allow Pakistan nationals access to five Indian cities as opposed to three cities earlier.

Unlike in the past where Pakistan nationals were not allowed to enter and exist India from different cities, the new norms ensure that Pakistan nationals can enter and exit from different cities in the country.

The new regulation ensures that Pakistan nationals on a visiting visa have wider access to the country. Reuters

India has also eased business visa rules for Pakistani businessmen. Business establishments with a turn over of half a million dollar or more will benefit with the new visa norms.

The new visa norms are expected to help students, senior citizens, business men, tourists and group tourists. The new visa regime however does not amend any restrictions for religious tourists.

India has extended the olive branch to Pakistan although there has been no forward movement by Pakistan on the issue of Hafiz Saeed, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and more importantly 26/11 attacks in India.

India hasn’t heard from the judicial panel from Pakistan, probing the 26/11 attacks and Ajmal Kasab’s role in the episode, that was expected to come to India earlier this month. A Pakistan official had earlier this year said that the probe panel will visit India on February 3.

The new visa norms come in the backdrop of Pakistan easing its stand on the Kashmir issue, with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, suggesting that all issues with India be resolved through dialogue, diplomacy, prudent policy and national consensus. Gilani said said Pakistan and India cannot afford another war in the 21st century and described talks as the only way forward.

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