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Paying for crime, yet again

Sir — The law has a long memory as well as a very long arm — as Charles Sobhraj must have found to his cost (“Sobhraj caught in casino”, Sept 20). His recent arrest in a Kathmandu casino comes 28 years after the crime, which is twice the period of the maximum penalty of a life term — 14 years, and after he had already served 20 years in Tihar for yet another crime — drugging a busload of students in order to rob them. Why then has he been arrested yet again' And why weren’t all the crimes clubbed together for the purposes of the trial' Sobhraj is 64 years old now, and he has been living in relative quiet in France ever since his release from the Indian jail in 1997. Isn’t it time he was left alone by the law-enforcement agencies' As the “bikini killer”, Sobhraj had gained much notoriety. And there can be no condoning murder, but in these times of global terror and of crimes of the scale of what happened on 9/11, Sobhraj’s crimes appear strangely less heinous.

Yours faithfully,
G. Adhikari, Calcutta


All for life

Sir — The arguments posed in “Death is no punishment” (Sept 17) was both illogical and impracticable, and strikes one for its adolescent idealism.

Uddalak Mukherjee says that reform and rehabilitation — and not the death penalty — are the best way to deal with a criminal, however heinous be his crime. What if it is proven that Amarmani or Madhumani Tripathi, both educated people, masterminded the murder of Madhumita Shukla and her foetus' Would Mukherjee suggest that instead of incarceration and possibly the death penalty, the Tripathis should be reformed and rehabilitated and provided psychological counselling and then released into the free world to try and live better lives' Next, he may even say that if only society had redirected the processes that create the criminal mind, the murders would never have been committed. This betrays a frightening lack of understanding of crime and the criminal mind. Crimes like murder and rape take away the right to live, and their perpetrators are a danger to society.

Each case needs to be viewed separately. For every cold-blooded murder, there is a murder committed because of metal instability or as a result of adverse situations. But to claim that all such crimes would vanish if only society reformed itself and offered a helping hand to everyone is ridiculous. Mukherjee wants the state to “create a database of the mental health of the population, identifying and addressing the possible catalysts of deviance”. He does not seem to realize that a country which cannot even provide social security to all its citizens might find such a project a tad beyond its reach.

The death penalty is a fitting punishment for any individual who violates another’s right to life. What is required is a strengthening of the laws and the removal of all loopholes which might result in wrongful conviction of an innocent.

Yours faithfully,
Rajyasree Sen, New Delhi


Sir — As Uddalak Mukherjee rightly points out, the death penalty has become outdated and does not serve any purpose. Among the three objectives of punishment — retribution, deterrence and reform — it is the third that should find a place in a liberal and progressive democracy like India. So, instead of humanizing the death penalty, we must think of innovative ways to reform and reinduct the deviants into society. Had capital punishment been effective, there would have been no crimes in the countries of west Asia, which have some of the cruellest ways of punishing criminals.

Yours faithfully,
Shweta Gupta, Jalpaiguri


Sir — Uddalak Mukherjee says that the problem with the death penalty is that under Indian law, a man on death row is allowed “endless” appeals. I should presume this is a good thing, since the appeal might lead to an acquittal, giving proof of the “humanizing” factor that Mukherjee pleads for. But he closes this line of argument when he says, “By opting for such an excruciatingly long process, valuable time and resources are lost, which could perhaps have been used in the psychological rehabilitation.” Thus it seems that Mukherjee would rather the law takes away the chance of an acquittal and instead creates a database of misled, deranged sociopaths.

Next, Mukherjee quotes Michael Foucault on how as society becomes more advanced, punishment is “humanized” and forms of social control are developed wherein emphasis is placed on controlling the mind. Can Mukherjee please tell us what is the benchmark for such “advancement” and how long before we reach the state where the death penalty becomes redundant'

Yours faithfully,
Anasuya Mohanty, New Delhi


Call charges

Sir — Calcutta Telephones provides the India Telephone Card through which customers can make calls using any telephone. Extremely popular, these cards are available for denominations starting from Rs 100. A call is charged Rs 1.10/unit. At this rate, a person who buys a card of Rs 100 is actually getting a service of Rs 99 (90 calls at the rate of Rs 1.10/unit, equals Rs 99). The difference of Re 1 is what the customer pays extra for which he does not get any service. These cards must be priced in multiples of the per unit charge (Rs 99 for 90 units, Rs 110 for 100 units), so that customers get full value for their money.

Yours faithfully,
Sayan Sarkar, Calcutta


Sir — Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has extensively advertised a scheme whereby disconnected telephones can be re-connected, with certain terms and conditions. But BSNL officials at INDA Kharagpur, deny any such order. Does this mean that the BSNL telephones out of the Calcutta circle do not enjoy this extended privilege'

Yours faithfully
M.R. Redden,
Kharagpur


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