Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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A Chartered Accountant with a difference

We hear a lot about extraordinary people and their extra ordinary accomplishments and lifestyle. History books, biographies, and the best sellers dealing with self-improvement, leadership, and success give anecdotes, stories and experiences of these achievers to inspire people. Many times we perceive these iconic or historical personalities as people who had certain innate qualities which ordinary people do not have. Thus there is a mental block in emulating them and to consider them as source of inspiration.
Cyber Diary occasionally presents before the readers a few ordinary persons who make an extraordinary presence in this world through their unique views, lifestyles, and achievements. (Link to some of the earlier articles are given at the end)
In this post, I would like to introduce to you, Mr Anil Kulkarni, a Chartered Accountant, who works with a Multinational Company in Dubai.

I noticed this gentleman, while he was working as the Chief Financial Controller of a large Infrastructure Company in India. A very enthusiastic and ever smiling person. When many others in his profession and those who worked in similar high status jobs travelled in high-end luxury cars, he travelled in public transport buses for all the local travel. He carried his files, laptop, and other papers in his shoulder bag and not in any impressive briefcase. He always prepared the subject thoroughly before every meeting with senior officers in the government, financial institutions, and the regulatory bodies. He was always on time. His presentations and arguments were honest and clear and he always ensured that the organization he represented followed the straight path and not short cuts. He was always ready to admit the faults if any committed by the company he represented.  He spent his free time taking lectures for students, reading academic books, participating in seminars etc. With all these engagements, he always made it a point to reach home in the evening hours and be with the family.

Recently, he met me at my office as he was on a short holiday from Dubai. As usual, he came in a public transport bus. We discussed various topics ranging from International politics to domestic economic situation.

I would like to introduce him to the readers of Cyber Diary. Hence this interview:

Me:  You worked as financial controller for many large companies in India and abroad. It is a fact that one needs to make minor 'compromises'  for the larger commercial interests of the company, even if it slightly violated any regulations or ethical principles?
Anil: Life is full of compromises! Since most of us devote major part of our life for earning our bread and butter, compromises need to be made for achieving personal goals in life. However, ethics and principles should take priority in professional life. A successful human being is the one who balances the personal and professional goals.

Me:  How do you maintain your simplicity in spite of several opportunities to indulge in luxurious and flamboyant lifestyle?
Anil: I always ask myself, how much do I want and what am I going to do with it, before I do anything for myself. My wants over all these years have remained more or less the same and I thank the almighty for that. It keeps me focused. I don’t give too much importance to material possessions.

Me:  What is your daily routine?
Anil: I wake up at 5 am (without exception, even on holidays). I regularly perform yoga / light exercises to start the day, have bath, chant prayers, have a light breakfast and am in the office almost an hour or two before the official time. Most days, I am at the office around 7.30 am. I have lunch on time between 12-12.30 and am home by 6 pm. I help out my wife in the kitchen when needed. We have dinner promptly between 7.30 - 8 pm. and go to bed before 9 pm.

Me:  What are the qualities of a successful manager?
Anil: Of course success is quite interpretative and also subjective. My definition of a successful manager is one who manages his team efficiently (cultivate all-round abilities), motivates the members (get them on board to meet the purpose), be in personal touch with the team members (have informal gatherings, fun), understands their needs (listen, provide the possible help) and gets the best out of the group (put the team's objective ahead of individual performance) to achieve the organization's goal.

Me: Tell more about your childhood and education
Anil: I was born in a Hindu Brahmin family. The family gave first priority for high quality education and the development of personality to become a good human being.  We were a closely knit family. My grandfather, a veterinarian by profession, moved to Mumbai in the 50's and initially we all stayed in one big apartment in Matunga. On festive occasions, we used to have a large gathering of around 100 people at home and all of us used to have meal on a banana leaf in a perfect Hindu tradition.  We would play lot of games, study under the supervision of the elders, travel together and had a solid foundation through guidance from the elders. The family values have played a big role in making me what I am today.

Me:   Dubai - is it still a destination for success for people and companies across the world?
Anil: Dubai is a dreamland for many people. It has grabbed all the opportunities that the globalized world has offered. It is now not only the regional hub for the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region, but is also a central attraction to the western world. Thanks to liberal policies combined with the leader's commitment to upgrade the infrastructure and provide a comfortable lifestyle to its residents, Dubai is the most sought after place for people to visit, be it for business or for pleasure.

Me: What ails Indian Industry and businesses? What are your suggestions to make Indian businesses globally competitive?
Anil: I will put the reason in one simple sentence: Promise more and deliver less or nothing at times. To change this, we have to bring in discipline in all parts of the society. Those who are in charge of governance have to be made responsible and accountable for their actions. They should also be adequately rewarded for their achievements. Good corporate governance practices can bring enduring success.

Me:  What are your future plans: Professionally and personally
Anil: Having spent more than 30 years in the profession, I would like to devote more time in studying and teaching in the next phase. It could be anything, not necessarily connected to my qualifications.

Me: What is your advice for the youth?
Anil: Remain healthy both in body and mind, work hard, be ambitious and focus your actions towards your objectives, maintain discipline, cultivate empathy towards not so fortunate as you are in life and help them and ultimately be remembered for your good deeds.

Me: What are the challenges CAs face in the globalized world?
Anil: Global scenario is changing rapidly. The laws and regulations are accordingly being amended from time to time. Indian CAs are intelligent but tend to be bookish in the modern world. They need to be more practical to face real challenges faced by the industry. For this, one needs more than academic knowledge to find solutions for the issues before them. Our curriculum should get modified to factor in more real time scenarios (such as project work etc.) in different fields.

Concluding note

People like Anil are ordinary persons. They may not be perfect role models or those with superhuman qualities and achievements. But there are a few things one can learn from them. Such real life stories can provide much needed motivation. When we see unique qualities and viewpoints among people around us, prudent persons would try to assimilate some of those to their personality to make life more meaningful and successful. In fact, living heroes are more convincing than the saints of yesterdays.

                                                                       Sibichen K Mathew

Click below to read about other stories of ordinary persons with extraordinary lives

Ordinary person; Extraordinary life: A simple real life story for aspiring managers

Walmart beware! There are many Davids to challenge you in the globalized world

For inspiration don't always look up: Look down too

Towering bosses

Eat well to lose weight: Tips from an enlightened foodie


The lunch BOX: Tasty and Refreshing

Don’t go for this movie, if

-you are looking for fancy costumes
-sharp dialogues
-Great dance moves
-Romantic thrills

You should definitely see this movie if you want to enjoy the story and the acting by looking at the eyes, facial expressions, gestures, and the silence of the actors.

The movie would trigger in you….

Happiness:    How much happiness love and care can bring?

The pain of loneliness:  Do we know it?

The hope:   The only thing which can brighten a depressed soul

And it is not just serious stuff. There are plenty of lighter moments. 

And you understand that,

one need not require too many words to express one’s gratitude. 
relationships find meanings in silence.
every human being craves for attention and love.
one should not forget that the love of dear ones should never be taken for granted.

Even if the above do not interest you, watch this movie for its superb acting and direction.

I do not wish to narrate the story-line here. If you ask me to describe the entire theme in one sentence, here it is:

‘ A story of two lonely souls who found each other accidentally without even meeting each other’

Irrfan Khan  and Nimrat Kaur  lived (not ‘acted’) the role of  Saajan Fernandez and Ila.
Nawazuddin  Siddiqui did a wonderful job as Shaikh (You will definitely admire this gifted actor, a product of National School of Drama))
And Dabbawalas of Mumbai acted as Dabbawalas of Mumbai! (A case study in many top management institutes)

               Ritesh Batra                      (Photo:

Future of Indian Cinema is bright because of persons like Ritesh Batra. He did the screenplay and direction for The Lunchbox. 

                                                                    Sibichen K Mathew


Where there is a will, there is a load!

Many of you would agree with me on this. The more you are willing, the more load you are dumped with. This is a common grievance from many of those sincere workers in any organization. Bosses prefer such donkeys who won’t grumble when more work is put on them. Some bosses would have the audacity to say that, ‘I hope you enjoy doing this’.

By being a favourite of the boss, don’t think they will get any special privileges as compared to those who shirk work. Not at all! The hardworking persons who do not object to any additional workload are denied leave even for emergency reasons. Bosses make them indispensable in work and they would feel insecure themselves when these hardworking persons are away from work even for a few hours.

Shyam’s petty boss

Read one of the bitter experiences of a sincere person. Shyam was a middle level manager.  He was very enterprising and systematic. He always exceeded his targets. His boss depended on him to realize the overall target. Shyam used to come very early to office and sat late hours to complete the work. Even on holidays he voluntarily went to office to help his boss in clearing the pending tasks. One day, he had to leave urgently on a Friday afternoon to visit his family who was staying in his native place. The next day was a family ceremony on the occasion of the birth of his son. Since the bus would leave his hometown around 3.30 pm, he took permission and left the office at 2 pm to occupy the seat from the originating station. But when he came back on Monday, the Administrative Officer of the section handed over him a noting of the boss on the file. He had written, ‘Since the officer had left before 2 pm, ask him to apply for half day leave’. The officer was in a shock. He had plenty of leaves at his credit. That was not an issue. What worried him was the attitude of his boss. He recalled how many late hours he had worked in that office in the past several months? How many weekends he had come to office to help out the boss to clear the pending workload of the entire office? Why should his boss be so petty and wrote such a remark on the file?

The above incident is a classic example of how intelligent donkeys are exploited by their bosses. However, in due course, this trend has taught lessons to those who are sincere and hardworking but shrewd, not to demonstrate their potential before exploitative bosses. When they were asked to do a job, they would plead ignorance even when they were experts in that. They knew that where there is a will there is a load. Only way they could express their unwillingness was by pleading ignorance. Ultimately the organization is the loser.

The free-riders and loafers

In an exploitative environment led by inefficient bosses, really intelligent people fail to contribute their best fearing excessive extraction of their time and energy. Had the boss been efficient, he would have ensured that everyone in the team is properly equipped equitably to contribute their best in the most optimum manner possible. This is not to deny the fact that there would be people of differing capability and potential in an organization.  Both the practices viz. putting the entire load on the willing team members or allowing the unwilling team members to continue in their laziness are hallmarks of inefficient and easy going bosses. They want to get the results with minimum efforts, even if it was at the cost of burdening a handful of sincere, obedient and loyal team members.

Organizations in government and in the public sector are notorious for a ‘behavioural pattern’ that results in continuous loading of work on sincere employees. This is because there is nothing they can do in respect of the free riders, loafers and the inefficient lot that constitute major workforce. These organizations can neither reduce their pay nor send them out due to the archaic, impractical and unfair job contracts. Ultimately the sufferers are those who are committed to update their skills and contribute their best for the bosses and the organization. For some of them it is not just commitment, but certain values such as respect, loyalty and obedience that are ingrained in their personality that make them work. They keep working irrespective of their bosses in spite of various personal and familial inconveniences. In fact, many government organizations engaged in the public service still get going, though not as efficient as some of the private sector organizations, only because of a handful of sincere souls at various levels.

Though equitable work allocation is unrealistic in any organization due to disparities in expertise, potential for innovation, and aptitude, there need to be proper distribution of workload at every level. Even in new generation organizations where there are scientific screening and allocation of work at entry level, same get diluted at subsequent levels. In a competitive and fast business environment, organizations need to depend on those who deliver quickly and efficiently. They also take care to compensate them for their extra efforts. But, in terms of overall and enduring productivity for the organization, one should bear in mind the fact that monetary incentives alone would not necessarily provide much needed motivation. Ultimately, faced with health hazards, family expectations and relationship strains, the executives would not enjoy even challenging tasks and opportunities given to them. Many would leave the organizations just to escape from the exploitative bosses.

What is the solution? Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg

The bosses need to understand that there are wiser donkeys around them. If they throw their loads in frustration, there would not be anyone to pick up those loads, since the bosses have not prepared a standby team. They should bear this in mind: Utilize the sincere ones; but don’t squeeze them. At the same time, if there are more loafers and free-riders, that shows how inefficient the boss is. A true leader is the one who creates meaningful tasks in an environment where people would compete to shoulder the responsibilities assigned. 

Equitable allocation of workload, distribution of meaningful tasks as per interest and potential and realistic targets at every level would result in organizational well-being. Putting excessive strain on the willing team members would not contribute to enduring overall productivity of the organization and of the concerned individuals. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Organizations need them at challenging times.

The employees need to understand that pleading ignorance to an exploitative boss is not a solution. That would make them not only unwanted but also unutilized which would harm their creativity. They need to be receptive to the extent the organization needs and also to the extent they can demonstrate their potential. Remember, opportunities are gateways to great accomplishments. 

© Views are personal.    Share your views and comments. Post by clicking ‘comments’ below (it will appear after a while). Or email your experiences to sibi5555 (gmail). 


'Kill the rapist': The state and the death penalty

Most Indians cannot forget a girl whose name they don’t know yet. They came to know about this young physiotherapy student of Delhi only when the TV channels flashed the breaking news: ‘Delhi student was gang raped in a bus’.  

Let us have a recap of the incident: A 23-year-old medical student stepped out of a mall after watching a film with a friend.  At 9 pm, they boarded a private licensed bus. Sometime later, the the driver diverted the bus from its normal route and six men raped the girl after beating up her friend. She fought back, but was repeatedly sexually assaulted and her abdomen and private parts were badly beaten. At 10 pm, she was stripped naked and was thrown off the bus.

What an unfortunate life! She lost even her name. Even the best medical help couldn't save her. She died within a few days. And the country called her by a new name, ‘Nirbhaya’ which means fearless.

After a very quick and comprehensive investigation, the Delhi Police could nab all the criminals. The court did a wonderful job by expediting the trial in this case. The court awarded the maximum punishment as per law.

Why Capital Punishment?

People, by and large, welcomed the decision to award capital punishment in this case. However, as a matter of principle, a few people opposed such extreme punishment for any crime. On moral grounds I tend to agree with their view. But, legally and also on the basis of an analysis of the facts and circumstances of the case, I appreciate the judgment of the court. Certainly, one needs to apply the law of the land as it stands on that day and the judiciary cannot close the eyes on the existing legal position.

The debate on the utility or futility of ‘capital punishment’ is vibrant for several decades. Naturally, following one liner I posted in a social networking site evoked varied responses from a few of my friends.

Following are some of the discussions posted in my social networking page on my above one-liner.

Fawn Neun
 A quick hanging death is too easy.
Guru Prasad               
Come on sir! Who decides who are the right people? One judge or 3 judges. Right to life is a fundamental right of all. State assisted murder is  not acceptable.
Sibichen Mathew
Unfortunately that is the law of the land. We are free to bring in  amendments to  the constitution if we disagree.
Mini Verma
Well said Sibichen
Prafull Kumar Sinha
You have done what the framers of the constitution did not do, and the
Parliamentarians have been restrained from doing, till date.
Pauljohn Moonjeli
In my humble opinion, death penalty can be only for enemies of state, when they wage war (conventional or otherwise) on the country. In all
 other cases, death penalty should be replaced by incarceration till death                                     with no parole. Yes, that will be additional burden on the state/ society;                                       but, maybe the society contributed unwittingly to the crime.
Sibichen Mathew
 I  agree Prafull, Pauljohn, Guruprasad. But, as of now, one can't have the   judgement from 123 crore people.
The job is vested with the judiciary in this parliamentary democracy.
Of course, there need to be a radical thinking and consequent amends in the law to have retributory and reformative punishments even for very heinous crimes. Such a moral position would be appropriate for a  civilized society. I do not have any doubt.
But from the angle of the 'perpetrator',  he should introspect whether he has any right to live when he has taken the life of another in the cruelest manner.
Banita Naorem
I am totally with you. Rights should always come with duty and responsibility
Ashok Shahapur
158 Nations have abolished Capital Punishment.  Fear of death by capital punishment has not stopped criminals from committing heinous crimes.  If  we eliminate bad elements through capital punishments whether rest of us are all saints ? Now even the word 'SAINT' has lost its sanctity with incidents like Nityanad, Asaram and other self styled godmen.  Even the  'TEN COMMANDMENTS' given to the society say 'DO NOT KILL '
Sibichen Mathew
Ashokji, Individuals do not have the right to kill. But, as per the existing law,  the State can (we see this not only in Bible, but also in all sacred texts, since  you quoted religious texts): To protect the interest of the society and to give exemplary  punishment in rarest of rare cases. Ashokji, none claim (including those 158 countries) that all crimes can be wiped off overnight by hanging a few. Secondly,  why do we shoot a ferocious animal attacking the poor villagers? If all of us justify  that act by Forest officials, how can we  justify very heinous crime by men who are  worse than animals by giving them  a lesser punishment?

At this point of time, I put the following post to make myself clearer.

The discussion continued in spite of the above. A few of the comments are reproduced below.

Devojyoti Mukherjee
Endorse u .....yesssss...
Dagny Sol
You said it Sibi...
Ashok Shahapur
Sir, we are in a CATCH -22 . We are struck and too afraid to  review the system : We believe that it is the best way to deter  crime. Henry Ford said, 'Capital punishment is fundamentally
wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong for poverty’.
But at the same time when we look at certain cases, your response is justified which says ' PUT THEM TO DEATH ! '
Ak Rappai
They should be hanged in public , telecasted, videographed,and
 displayed in all public places to act as a deterrent towards rape and
 other similar crimes against women
Guru Prasad
This society is deranged to celebrate somebody’s hanging
Sukumar Mondal
Heinous crimes should be dealt with that way
Satya Prakash
Perhaps our judiciary should have more stringent punishment,  as
stringent and severe as nirbhaya suffered......
Ashok Shahapur
Mr Sibichen Mathew, on what grounds you are for capital punishment?
Moral, Biblical, ethical, utilitarian, or legal? Or any other?
Sibichen Mathew
I am not for or against. I respect the law of the land as it stands. This doesn't mean that I do not have any suggestion for amending the existing law. That is a different topic altogether. At present, I respect the judgment in the given facts and circumstances of the case. I am consistent on this and no contradictions.
Ashok Shahapur
Sir, your comments are both a fusion of explorer and constructive view. Yes, the country needs reform system with regard to capital punishment beyond that of primitive society .
Sebastian James
By calling for public hanging we are not so different from the
Saudis/Afghans afterall  (who impose death by public
hanging/stoning/beheading, etc for crimes committed). Effective
punishment=Probability of being caught X Severity of Punishment. The Saudi/Afghan style is to increase the severity of punishment to scare people. But we could also work towards increasing the chance of criminals getting caught and getting conviction in a short duration. As a civilized society we should work on this approach rather than the former.
Ashok Shahapur
Sir, You were against capital punishment. You are for retributive and
reformative punishments even for heinous crimes.  You say in Nirbhaya type cases capital punishment is justified . Sir, these thoughts reflect your holistic and divergent thinking from various angles. Sir, these thoughts reminds me  Walt Whitman's quote " I contradict myself, I contain in multitudes!'
Pauljohn Moonjeli
When/if the 'perpetrator' introspects whether he has  any right to live when he has taken the life of another in the most cruel manner, that could be a turning point in his life. I think all of us CAN be reformed, regardless of our history/ background, etc. look at what happened to Reny George:
Anil Gupta
As expected we always debate about rights of doers of crime but rarely
bothered about the victim and their family. Unless we reverse this trend crime is not going to stop. It is pity that the brightest brains and philosophers come forward always for protecting the rights of criminals.
Comment from Abraham Jacob
we find that most of the crimes are committed by habitual offenders, criminals who are on parole or who have been let off earlier due to lack of evidence.. I feel it is better to eradicate such people from the face of the earth so that the threat from at least such elements as well as the cost of maintaining them by the country can avoided.
Sibichen Mathew
Paul, you need to apply the sociological theoretical perspectives when you compare the motive, process, and cultural background of both cases. These are in two different realms. One would arrive at erroneous decisions through incorrect comparisons. That is why thousands of criminals and their shrewd advocates get away by misleading the courts by citing incorrect precedents (I  mean case laws).

The above discussion prompted me to analyse the current decision of the court in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case.

The question I am analyzing is this: ‘Am I correct to hold the position that ‘I was against Capital Punishment till I read about how Nirbhaya was killed’?'. In other words, ‘Can we have capital punishment in ‘rarest of rare’ cases?’

In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that if a murder involves exceptional depravity, it shall be an aggravating circumstance for imposition of penalty of death.

In Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983) 3 SCC 470, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as follows:

‘When the community feels that for the sake of self preservation the killer has to be killed, the community may well withdraw the protection by sanctioning the death penalty. But the community will not do so in every case. It may do so ( in rarest of rare cases) when its collective conscience is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability or otherwise of retaining death penalty. The community may entrain such a sentiment when the crime is viewed from the platform of the motive for, or the manner of commission of the crime, or the anti-social or abhorrent nature of the crime, such as for instance:

(i)                  manner of commission of Murder i.e., when the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting, or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community ;
(ii)                whether the victim is subjected to inhuman acts of torture of cruelty in order to bring about his or her death.’

Whether Nirbhaya case was one of the ‘rarest of rare’ cases?

I referred to the press briefs based on the reports  released by the Medical board on the progress of Nirbhaya while she was in the hospital.
Following report clearly makes the relevant point: 

Amidst the arrests and the investigation by the police in the shocking case, the health of the victim has deteriorated again. While her condition got better on Tuesday morning, she was again put on ventilator in the evening, according to the medical update from the Safdarjung hospital.
The Safdarjung hospital has said that the condition of the victim has deteriorated. According to the hospital, while the condition of the victim got better on Tuesday morning, but had to be put on ventilator again in the evening.
The hospital further said, "This is a severe and a very unusual case which the hospital has never seen in terms of the injuries...she has received severe genital and intestinal injuries."

The court went through the medical files of Nirbhaya in detail. It observed as follows:

The facts show that  entire intestine of the prosecutrix was perforated, splayed and cut open due to repeated insertions of rods and hands. The convicts, in the most barbaric manner, pulled out her internal organs with their bare hands as well as by the rods and caused her irreparable injuries, thus exhibiting extreme mental perversion not worthy of human condonation. As convict in pursuance of their conspiracy lured the victims into the bus Ex. P-1, brutally gang raped the prosecutrix, inflicted inhuman torture and threw the defenceless victims out of the moving bus in naked condition, profusely bleeding in a cold winter night ; their unprovoked crime demonstrated exceptional depravity of mind of the convicts. In the postmortem report Ex. PW34/A, besides other serious injuries, various bite marks were observed on her face, lips, jaw, near ear, on the right and left breasts, left upper arm, right lower limb, right upper inner thigh (groin), right lower thigh, left thigh lateral, left lower anterior , genital. It rather show the beastly behaviour of convicts. Further, the convicts did not stop after pulling out her internal organs after the crime of gang rape / unnatural sex but then had dragged the victims to the rear door of the bus Ex.P-1 to be thrown out and when the rear door was found jammed the victims were dragged by their hairs to the front door and thrown out of the moving bus. Her intestines were so severally damaged and the suffering inflicted on the prosecutrix was unparalleled. The brutality caused to her internal organs is extreme as is evident from the medical evidence on record and hence the act of convicts call for extreme penalty.

As per the present legal position, in order to award a death penalty the court has to first weigh the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating circumstances. If it finds that there are no mitigating circumstances, then the court need to apply the Rarest of Rare test to find if the case falls within such category.

While delivering the decision, the court has relied upon past judicial pronouncements:

In Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983) 3 SCC 470, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as follows:

" In the first place, the very humanistic edifice is constructed on the foundation of "reverence for life" principle. When a member of the community violates this very principle by killing another member, the society may not feel itself bound by the shackles of this doctrine. Secondly, it has to be realized that every member of the community is able to live with safety without his or her own life being endangered because of the protective arm of the community and on account of the rule of law enforced by it".

In Devender Pal Singh vs. State (NCT of Delhi) (2002) 5 SCC 234, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as follows:

 "Principle culled out from the judgments in Bachan Singh (supra) and Machhi Singh (supra), is that when the collective conscience of the community is so shocked, the court must award the death sentence."

In Ram Singh v. Sonia & Ors. (2007) 3 SCC 1, the Hon'ble Supreme Court once again held as follows:

 "It would be a failure of justice not to award the death sentence in a case where the crime was executed in the most grotesque and revolting manner".

 In C. Munniappan v. State of Tamil Nadu (2010) 9 SCC 567, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as below:
"Stressing upon the manner of commission of offence, if extremely brutal, the diabolical, grotesque killing, shocking to the collective conscience of the society, the death sentence should be awarded."

In Ajitsingh Harnamsingh Gujral v. State of Maharashtra (2011) 14 SCC 401, the Hon'ble Supreme Court further held as below:
  " the distinction has to be drawn between ordinary murders and murders which are gruesome, ghastly or horrendous. While life sentence should be given in the former, the latter belongs to the category of the rarest of rare cases, and hence death sentence should be given."

The order in the present case clearly presented its reasoning in following words:

‘The court has to look into the factors like society's abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to certain types of cases viz., like the case in hand - of gang rape with brutal murder of a helpless girl by six men. These are the times when gruesome crimes against women have become rampant and courts cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong deterrent message to the perpetrators of such crimes. The increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only once the society realize that there will be no tolerance from any form of deviance against women and more so in extreme cases of brutality such as the present one and hence the criminal justice system must instill confidence in the minds of people especially the women. The crime of such nature against a helpless women, per se, require exemplary punishment. I may leave here while saying that the gravity of the incident depicts the hair rising beastly and unparalleled behaviour. The subjecting of the prosecutrix to inhuman acts of torture before her death had not only shocked the collective conscience but calls for the withdrawal of the protective arm of the community around the convicts. This ghastly act of the convicts definitely fits this case in the bracket of rarest of rare cases. Hence, I award the following punishment to each of the convict.’

Here below are two pictures shared and liked by hundreds of women in social networking sites immediately after the above judgement (Credits to the anonymous owner)

    Analysis in general
The perspective of the UN

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains the following:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
                               (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 3,5,6, 7, 8)

Out of 193 Member States of UN, about 150 countries have abolished Capital Punishment.  In a recent speech, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as follows: ‘“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process. We have a duty to prevent innocent people from paying the ultimate price for miscarriages of justice. The most sensible way is to end the death penalty’ The topic of discussion was “Moving away from the death penalty – Wrongful Convictions.”

View of Amnesty International

Amnesty International opposes death penalty in all cases without any exception. It campaigns for total abolition of death penalty. Amnesty International argues that there is no evidence that the death penalty is a stronger deterrent against crime than custodial sentences. As per the statistics compiled by Amnesty International, there were at least 680 in 2012. Half of the executions took place in Iran (314). Iraq executed 129, Saudi Arabia 79 and the US 43. This excludes data from China which, according to Amnesty, contributes to a large portion of total executions in the world.

How India is more responsible than other countries in awarding capital punishment?

In principle, I agree to the view that capital punishment should be best avoided.  However, India, as a responsible Member State of the United Nations, has never used this option in undeserving cases unlike many other countries.  As per the statistics of the National Crime Record Bureau (2013), in India a total of 97 prisoners were awarded capital punishment in 2012 and only one person was executed.

In a recent report  (2013) of the Amnesty International titled ‘Death sentences and executions in 2012’, it narrated instances of capital punishments carried out by politicians across the world to show that they are tough on crime or to silence the dissent. 

In Iran, four people were executed for the ‘offence’ of ‘enmity against God and corruption on earth’. Five persons were sentenced for anti-government protests. Both in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, it has been reported that confessions were taken based on forced confessions under torture and later awarded death penalty. In many cases, the accused were not allowed to take the assistance of a counsel. In Sudan, the government used the capital punishment to suppress the opposition.

The Amnesty report says that the death penalty continues to be used for ‘crimes’ such as ‘adultery’ ‘apostasy’, and ‘sexual relations between consenting adults’, all acts which do not meet the international standard of ‘most serious crimes’ but which should not be considered crime at all. In United States the death penalty has been abolished in many states because of its discriminatory applications and the possibility of wrong convictions.

The sentencing for death penalty is not final

The imposition of capital punishments does not always end up in execution. After the order of death penalty by a sessions court, same has to be confirmed by the High Court. The convict can file an appeal against the order of High Court in the Supreme Court. In India, Article 72(1) of the Constitution grants the President the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence  in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death. Mercy petition can also be filed before the Governor of the state.

The police, the jail authorities, the co-convicts in prison, the counsels and many others who interact with a convict sentenced for death penalty but pending for execution can tell clearly whether that person is in a repentance mode. All these would be invariably go into the reports that aid in deciding on a pardon by the President.

Concluding analysis

(Caution: Following analysis is in the context of legitimate democracies and not applicable to the state sponsored killings in many authoritarian states.)

In a civilized society, the civilized decision makers are democratically elected, and legitimately appointed to provide protection to the people as per law. Their actions can be criticized if they fail to follow the law. Once a power is legitimately bestowed upon an incumbent, and if he does his duty in exercise of that law, none can question that action. If the law itself is redundant, incorrect, illogical, irrational, inhuman or antisocial, the only remedy is to change the law. The law can be amended only by the representatives of the people duly elected and the majority decision prevails. This is absolutely the correct procedure in a democratic society. If there is something wrong with the democratic process which itself is less democratic or it is difficult to be democratic due to the inherent errors and biases in that process, there are avenues for reform. The constitutions of the democratic countries provide rights for every citizen to express his dissent in a civilized manner. For reasons discussed above, it is the sovereign duty of the state through its judiciary to apply the law as it deemed fit in appropriate circumstances in order to serve the best interest of the society. An order awarding capital punishment is an example of legitimate exercise of the power granted as per law.

Though the law governing an individual and the law governing a state are not mutually exclusive, contradictory or which can be substituted, they are not one and the same. When law expects an individual not to harm another individual unless there are certain mitigating circumstances or exceptions specifically enumerated in the penal codes, the state is not prohibited from inflicting a harm on an individual or entity or a group of individuals or a group of entities for the common good. Entire punitive system is based on this principle. If the parliament has made a law or the highest court has already pronounced a judgment in identical case, there is less room for applying discretion that is beyond the scope of law or deviate from a well-established precedent.  Any adverse decision would be considered as perverse and would bound to be set-aside.

The state needs to respect the life of every citizen. For this purpose, in exceptional and rarest of rare cases, it needs to take the ultimate step of depriving a person his life for common good. An army has the power to shoot at the person who deliberately trespasses or invades the state’s geographic boundaries to damage the unity and integrity of the nation and the peace and welfare of the people. A criminal if he acts against the country and its people and if his existence is a further threat to the state, it is the duty of the state to eliminate the permanent threat in order to remove the fears in the minds of the people and to maintain law and order.

But the above power to take away the life of an individual has to be used only in the most deserving cases. Amnesty International, which is against the capital punishment, opposes it mainly on the ground that many countries use this indiscriminately. Its reports narrate instances of capital punishments carried out by politicians to silence the dissent, for the ‘offences’ or ‘sins’ which amounted to  ‘enmity against God and corruption on earth’, and by taking forced confessions and torture in custody. When certain undemocratic, illegitimate, inefficient, and fascist rulers and officials use capital punishment for illegitimate purposes, it is perfectly right on the part of organizations like Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to call for a total ban on death penalty.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations is not in contravention to the laws of the legitimate states. It advocates for upholding the law that ensures freedom to all citizens. There is no different opinion that ‘all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law’. Thus an innocent and hapless woman is entitled for justice and expects the state to punish a criminal appropriately. Protection under law is for the people who follow the law and not for people who act outside the law. Similarly, millions of hapless women can experience the security and protection offered by the state for which they are entitled, only when they are convinced that the state has taken concrete steps so that no incident of gruesome murder is perpetrated by criminals who think that they could get away without facing extreme punishments. As mentioned earlier in this article, the United Nations is worried more about the death penalty in cases of wrongful convictions.

Now the question is, if the judgement is wrong, an innocent person will lose his life which none can restore in this world. This throws open a very fundamental and universal issue of error of judgment. In a perfect criminal justice system that analyses the investigation reports threadbare, allows production of evidences by all the parties, follows time tested and established procedures for examination of witnesses, put in place an adversarial system where arguments and submissions are cross examined, draws from the rich judicial precedents, permits state sponsored legal assistance, there is no scope for gross errors. Even if there is an injustice due to various factors including the inability of any party to produce any evidence at the time of trial, the multi-tier criminal justice system that provide for appeals to higher courts give opportunities for the accused, the convict, or the prosecution. By the time the order is delivered by the apex court, all aspects of the case would have definitely brought on record so that there is no error in the decision.

Next objection would be about the opportunity for repentance and  reformation. Crminal justice system and the related punitive system are aimed at reforming a criminal. Reformation is a process that happens from within and the individual becomes conscious of that when he perceives a change in the 'state of mind'. But the reformation of a person is manifested in his outward action. To examine whether a rapist is reformed, the state cannot set a honey trap outside to examine whether he is attacking the lone beautiful woman or it cannot mount surveillance for months and years to check whether his animal instinct to rape is still intact. However the jail authorities and the people who interact with him in his cell can understand his change in attitude, temperament and behaviour and report the same. Psychologists and sociologists can closely watch or do a counselling or try scientific tests to find out whether there is any reformation. But all these are also marred by errors of judgment, sometimes graver than the errors in the scientific analysis and conclusions of the criminal justice system.

Paroles, commutation of sentences etc. are done in many cases based on the reports of jail authorities and other social scientists that the convicts have reformed. But in significant number of cases it was found that the people who went on parole have indulged in criminal acts, and people who got released after commutation of their sentences, engaged in further offences.

Another strong argument in favour of total ban on death penalty is that there is no evidence which shows that the crimes have been reduced because of death penalty and thus it is not an effective deterrent. This is a misplaced notion for two reasons. First, there is no authentic and comprehensive statistics to show that such heinous crimes have either increased or decreased because of the ban or continuation of death penalty. Second, an unreformed criminal who has done a very gruesome act which classified as a rarest of rare cases after a comprehensive judicial investigation and analysis, can by way of his conduct and interaction within the walls of the prison (even if no parole is sanctioned for him),  infect and influence others with his words and behaviour. This will have an effect that is counter to the deterrence. In an over-crowded and grossly under-staffed prison  system (most countries including India has inmates much more than its capacity), and reports of large scale corruption and indiscipline within prisons, a shrewd criminal who has done a gruesome and ‘rarest of rare’ crime, can exploit the loopholes and adverse circumstances to remotely indulge in further crime through his friends and accomplices outside the prison. Even solitary confinement for life is not a viable alternative in the current punitive system and would not in any way safeguard his rights; if at all one has to consider that a person who committed a most gruesome murder can demand any rights for himself.

See the example of a rapist who is responsible for the death of a hapless woman passenger in Kerala in Southern India.  Govindachamy was in the habit of indulging in various criminal activities under the guise of his ‘profession’ as beggar in trains and by attracting the sympathy of people showing his physical handicap. He sexually assaulted and killed a girl while she was travelling in a local train. The police arrested him within 48 hours. He was awarded death penalty by the court within a few months.   

This photo was published widely in many newspapers. 
Someone compared Govindachamy at the time of arrest and after a 
few months in Jail (Source:

It is reported by the media that he has not reformed even a bit after this incident and the sentencing. He has already completed 2 years and 5 months in jail. I would like you to read the article in open magazine to know about Govindachamy in detail.  .  Also see this article.  It is not because he got demoralized by the judgment of the court that he behaved aggressively. He is very optimistic about his coming out of the prison by employing the best advocate for him. The huge monetary backup from many unidentified persons points towards the organized criminal gang behind him. Don’t you think one should feed him with his favourite mutton curry and biryani (he did a hunger strike for getting these delicacies in the jail) and plot further crimes along with his criminal gang? As a citizen let him fight in higher courts and prove his innocence. If the High Court and Supreme Court after examining the evidences and arguments concur with the lower court’s judgment and the President of the country reject the mercy petition on the ground that the person has not shown any inclination to reform himself, would you still argue that he should have been sent to prison so that he will get an opportunity to communicate with his gang who had invested huge sums for his case? It is reported by the jail authorities that he is acting as if he is mentally deranged to get leniency from the appellate courts. The actor can act that he is totally reformed and get a parole and continue to indulge in his past pastime. 

Next argument is from the angle of religion. I do not want to go in detail to that. But the scriptures of both religions of Judaic tradition (Christianity and Islam) and the major eastern religion Hinduism are full of instances where the rulers and leaders eliminated the enemies of the state and the society guided by divine and prophetic voices.  Even if there is an argument that Jesus had re-written the old law of ‘tooth for tooth and nail for nail’, that position was in the realm of individuals and not in the realm of Caesar, if he acts to protect the society against criminals who refuse to reform themselves. In fact this is not only a sovereign duty but also a ‘divine’ responsibility. The Catholic Church is a staunch opponent of death penalty. But it said in an authentic document that, ‘No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so’ (USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death). The key word in this statement is ‘if’. That is what the democratic governments also do. They award death penalty only in rarest of rare cases where it is found that it is the only solution to protect a society that cannot protect itself from an extreme and unreformed criminal. See another article titled 'Is the death penalty just?' from a religious point of view. 

Final note

Death penalty is an undesirable punishment for all civilized societies. Awarding death penalty to serve the political and religious interests is highly deplorable. Even in democratic countries where capital punishment is awarded in rarest of rare cases, steps should be taken to reduce it to nil. However this can happen only in an ideal criminal justice system and punitive environment where a) criminal investigation is done without any flaw, b) judicial process is inclusive, transparent, quick, and affordable, c) prison rules are stringent and the prison officials are honest and efficient, d) the prisons are transformed into institutions for reformation, and e) an efficient crime prevention system is in place. All nation-states should strive for this. And governments should ensure that only life sentences are awarded to persons even in rarest of rare cases and no mercy petition for commutation is entertained. It should be incarceration for the entire life in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases. Till a criminal and punitive system as stated above is in place, let us be less vocal in opposing the judgments passed as per law in very deserving cases in the interest of the society. 

                                         © Sibichen K Mathew (views are personal)
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