#India- Abolish the #deathpenalty- #Humanrights


Rajeev Dhavan – India Today 

TAGS: Afzal Guru | Death penalty | Congress |Sushilkumar Shinde | BJP |Veerappan
Afzal Guru
Afzal Guru

When people kill it is homicide. When the State hangs, it is legicide. When terrorists kill, it is collective murder.When terrorists are killed, it is justified as counter-terrorism. When innocents are massacred, it is genocide. When the great empires of the day kill thousands of innocents it is called collateral damage for the greater glory of the world.

Afzal Guru’s hanging was celebrated as national pride to symbolise that India and the Congress party had not gone ‘soft’. This was to offset the BJP’s electoral campaign against the UPA’s soft state. To the cynic and the thoughtful, Afzal’s hanging became a political farce about collective revenge, national honour and electioneering for 2014. If his hanging was a deterrent for terrorists in the Valley or otherwise, the facts belie the truth. If a chain of hangings are to follow, why talk of mercy?

Discourse

Is India clear about the death penalty, state killings by hanging, mercy petitions and legicide? Years ago mandatory death sentences were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. From 1980-83, the new formula was death in the ‘rarest of rare cases’. Given shrill polities and social clamour for death, are we returning to de facto mandatory death sentences while retaining the de jure ‘rarest of rare’ clausula? Recently on 2nd March 2012 Justices Alam and Desai opined that mandatory death sentences for all under the Narcotics Act were contrary to the Constitution’s due process and civil liberties. The BJP wants mandatory death sentence for all terrorists. Unable to contain the political implications of this clamour, the Congress has joined the ‘mandatory’ bandwagon.

Omar Abdullah took a pragmatic, not a principled, view that death for Afzal would shake up Kashmir. Instead it shook up Hyderabad! Parliament dare not make death sentence for terrorists or rapists mandatory. It would be struck down. Instead this is achieved through politics, inciting people and numbing the conscience of the President.

The Parliament attack occurred on 13 December 2001, and Afzal was arrested on 15 December 2001. The High Court acquitted two accused, Geelani and Afsan, and on 4 August 2005 the Supreme Court convicted Afzal to death and awarded 10 years for Shaukat. President Pranab denied mercy on 3 February 2013. After six hurried days, he was executed. The quality of mercy was not just strained but ignored. Both Kasab and Afzal were hanged within days of the Presidential rejection of their mercy petition – ignoring the right to approach the courts to challenge the rejection.

Indeed, in 2013 the Karnataka High Court stayed the execution of Saibanna while it examined the legality of the presidential rejection. Recently, the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Veerappan’s aides until it heard arguments on the rejection of mercy.

Afzal

Afzal had no such chance. Afzal’s wife was informed of the death two days later – by speed post, sent a day before the execution! Home Secretary R.K. Singh said his family was informed. Indira’s killer’s family met the condemned before execution. Mr. Singh deserves suspension and Minister Shinde removal for his outrageous defence of secrecy.

But the body? Surely the family have a right to the body rather than a State burial. They had, and have, a right to a namaaz-e-janaza. Or is Afzal to be damned in the life hereafter? Don’t quote Prison Rules. The government’s alleged fear is that his tomb will symbolise martyrdom. Who can prevent that? Or a memory stone in his honour at Sopore? Would the army crush it to pieces? Why punish Tabassum, Afzal’s wife? Unmarked graves and unceremonious cremations was British policy that ill becomes a post colonial republic. Give Tabassum the body.

Punishment

Innumerable convicts await death row – a death in itself. Unwise Law Minister Ashwin Kumar, who knows little law, seemed more concerned with speed than justice. In Bachan’s case (1980) the court factorised both the aggravated crime (public interest) and individuating of concern for the criminal (mitigating justice) as separate live elements in sentencing. The former could not drown out the latter. Recently on 20 November 2012, Justices Lokur and Radhakrishnan exposed the sentencing error in looking at the crime and ignoring the criminal totally. This is the flaw in the Machi decision’s (1983) ‘rarest of rare’ test which seems to be on everyone’s lips as they look at the crime and ignore the criminal. The Supreme Court has now exposed a dozen of its own errors in this regard. What we have done is shocking: restored the mandatory death penalty by the back door.

The presidential mercy has become a farce. Mercy petitions are not a will-of the-wisp. They have developed a culture of killing. Imagine the Justices Radhakrishnan and Misra’s distress on reading a trial judge’s advocacy of slashing, beheading, lynching and death sentence as the only way to eliminate crime. That too, in a judicial verdict. This is the state we have reached. A UN report states that over 150 countries have abolished or do not use the death penalty. Building on earlier resolutions, in 2012, the General Assembly resolved for no more death penalties – supported by the African Republics Tunisia, Niger and South Sudan. Even Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia abstained rather than vote against.

One last comment: Judges should straighten out the law. Parliament should abolish the death penalty. Tihar should deliver Afzal’s body to his wife Tabassum.

– The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinion of the newspaper.

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/abolish-the-death-penalty-afzal-guru-upa-veerappan-aides/1/251575.html

 

Solar Panels Reflect Bright Future for Rural Papua New Guinea


GOROKA, Apr 2, 2012 (IPS) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has no national power grid but large river systems and abundant sunshine, renewable energy has tremendous potential to transform remote rural lives with clean and sustainable electricity.

Ten years ago Nick Nait, who lives in a small village near Mount Sion in the Eastern Highlands with his wife and children, introduced electricity to his household for the first time. While working for a missionary organisation Nait learnt how to make solar power systems and subsequently built a small one for his two-room dwelling.

The single solar panel powers a radio, lighting and television.

For Nait, solar power is affordable and dependable. “It depends on the weather, but when there is sun, there is no problem,” he said, “It is very reliable and I rarely have to do repairs.”

After the initial cost of making and installing the solar unit, he has had few ongoing expenses and, once fully charged, the system will provide light in his home for one month.

Like Nait, many people living in the rural Highlands face economic and environmental challenges. Garaio Gafiye of Clean Energy Solutions, a consultancy for renewable energy projects in PNG, told IPS, “The Highlands is a very rugged area and there are so many communities. Renewable energy is very important, especially hydro, there is so much of it, and solar also. But the problem is incomes are very low in the Highlands and managing money can be quite difficult.”

Families have been forced to become very resourceful in order to access energy at minimal expense.

“Solar is very easy to install,” Gafiye continued, “Now if you go to some of the communities, (at least) one or two people have solar systems, just simple ones. They just get the panel and a battery and put it together.”

Obtaining sustainable electricity has made a vital difference to Nait’s family.

“We now have lighting in our home, access to information and the news from radio and TV and my children can do their school work and study in the evenings,” Nait explained, “Although we do not have an electric stove, my wife finds it very helpful to have lighting while she is cooking at home.”

Now he plans to expand the capacity of his solar unit to drive a water pump and eventually bring clean water from a nearby well to his home.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), without access to energy, developing countries become trapped in poverty. The denial of choices to improve human development through energy is known to negatively impact infant mortality, life expectancy and income generation, among many others.

Sadly, this year, the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, the IEA estimates that 1.4 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, remain without access to electricity.

PNG Power Limited, the nation’s only power provider, claims it is unfeasible to construct a national grid system due to dense mountainous topography and long distances between load centres. Therefore, many villages still rely on traditional biomass, such as firewood, for cooking and heating, with diesel generators providing a popular alternative. But the high price of fuel means that generators are used sparingly, often for no more than a few hours each day.

“It is very cheap to purchase a diesel engine, but it won’t last long,” Gafiye said, “It could last four or five years but after that, if you work out the economics, it is not (cost efficient) to keep running it.”

Renewable technologies, which are practical for standalone systems and provide power 24 hours per day, are the best option for those living in remote areas.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the total primary energy supply in PNG is 145.9 petajoules (PJ), of which renewable energy accounts for 115.2 PJ (roughly 79 percent).

Read full article here

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