The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sign-off seal on death stick

New Delhi, Oct. 31: Outgoing Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti today said capital punishment should stay in the statute book, especially with terrorism emerging as a global phenomenon.

Referring to Saturday’s serial blasts, Lahoti, who retired as chief justice today, said the “perpetrators” of the crime “deserve” capital punishment. “Which penalty is required other than this for this dastardly act' What other punishment is called for'” the chief justice asked.

“We forget the past.... Human memory fails.... We forget the victims and we only see the accused before us and his family.... We forget the family of those killed, injured and totally uprooted, and I am told of a family whose only surviving member is a small child,” Lahoti said.

“People say that death penalty is the only punishment in which you cannot give life back. Ask this man who is the mastermind behind this blast. Can he give the life back of those killed' We forget thousands of those killed and think of only one person.”

Although a debate is raging “worldwide” against the death penalty, “keeping in view my judicial experience, I personally am of the opinion that it should continue in the Indian Penal Code”, Lahoti said.

He, however, added that “facts of the cases should be examined very carefully” while awarding the death penalty.

The chief justice rubbished the criticism that only poor people are “victimised” with the death penalty while the rich get away. “I do not agree with it at all.... We only see the facts of the case and modus operandi while deciding the quantum of punishment.”

Lahoti blamed “lack of political will” for growing terrorism in the country and suggested a stringent law to combat it. “What law should be enacted is again a matter of very scientific study. Whenever new problems arise, we find new solutions.”

He pointed out that in the US and the UK ' both targets of terror strikes ' “no further incidents of terrorism took place”. But “in our country, every day a dastardly act of terrorism takes place. Has anyone gone into the question' The reason is there should be a desire to take action, to act, study it scientifically to take remedial steps. Unfortunately in our country, no such action has been taken,” he said.

Judge shift row

Breaking his silence on Chief Justice B.K. Roy, who was shifted from two high courts in a short span, Lahoti said: “He completely lacks leadership quality.”

“He breached the code of conduct, made public statements and silently went on briefing media, which was gross misconduct, indiscipline. Justice Roy started fighting with the judges. He painted his colleagues in black which was not accepted of a judge.”

Roy was first transferred from Punjab and Haryana High Court to Guwahati High Court and then to Sikkim High Court, which has a strength of only three judges including the chief justice.

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