Capital punishment: Does judicial power give one the right to kill?
Do we have the right to kill?
When somebody does a wrong that the state considers the rarest of the rare kind, the legal system of several states stipulates that the person be sentenced to death. While most advanced countries take care to snuff the person’s life out in the least painful manner in lab surroundings, more barbarian ones chop the person’s head off in public places in more painful slaughter-house surroundings, and the less barbarian ones hang the person to death in decent but icy-cold jail surroundings. The fact of the matter is that death is supposed to be the highest form of punishment for the rarest of rare crimes.
However, for some reason I just cannot convince myself that the state has the right to downgrade death to the level of a punishment. If death is a punishment, the end of human life comes as a punishment, which definitely it is not. Death I would say is the end of one form of life and the start of another higher form of life. For many, death comes as a blessing, like those terminally ill or those trapped in bore wells or those hopelessly starving. Probably death is a punishment for those who wish to live and a blessing for those who wish to die. But has the state the right to decide on for whom death is a punishment and for whom not—and for that matter, what is a punishment?
The Webster’s defines punishment as “a suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution” or “a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure.” I wonder how death “serves” as retribution. For retribution to be effective, the person should feel its post-application impact. With the person snuffed out, who remains to feel the impact?
If a punishment indicates a penalty, what is a penalty? The Webster’s says that a penalty is “the suffering in person, rights, or property that is annexed by law or judicial decision to the commission of a crime or public offence.” So life is a “property” annexed by law for the commission of an offence. The state has the right to annex the property of an offender, but does it have the right to destroy the property of the offender? Does the state destroy the offender first and then “annex” the right of the offender, or does the state annex the “property” of the offender and thereby destroy the offender? Does any person other than the offender have any right on the property or life of the offender? If yes, can the state deprive those “others” of their right over the property or right or life of the offender?
Take the case of X, the terrorist who killed several innocent persons in Bombay, India. X has been put to death by the Indian judicial system. If the life of the offender is “annexed” by the state for his terrible crime, who is the loser? Is he the only rightful owner of his life? What crime did his parents or others who have a “right” or lien on his property do to suffer the loss of their right on his life or property? The basic principle of jurisprudence is that no innocent person be punished for an offence not committed by him or her. In the case of death penalty, retribution affects every other rightful owner of the offender’s property except the offender, because the offender is destroyed and all other rightful owners of the offender’s life or property suffer retribution for the loss of the offender’s life or property throughout the course of their lives. The offender stands destroyed. Does the state have the right to destroy the private property of its citizens? I think the state can deprive a citizen of a right but not destroy a citizen for whatever reason. Life is not a right enjoyed by a citizen but a being in existence. Existence is the private property of the Almighty and not that of a private person. The state has no right to destroy the property of the Almighty in the process of depriving a private citizen of a right.
Let us consider this from a metaphysical angle. Jesus promised even the “rarest of the rare” type of sinners a place in Heaven if the person repents. Real repentance for an offence comes to a person in the silence of his post-sinning period, never to a person in a prison where death awaits the offender in the form of a noose and the sense of punishment fills the air. When God gives an opportunity for a sinner to repent and seek an entry into Heaven, does the state have the right to stall God’s plan by destroying the sinner before the person has an opportunity to silence and repentance? Is not the state acting as the agent of Satan when the worst type of sinner as assessed by the state is terminated and sent to Satan before the sinner can utilize the opportunity offered by God to seek a late entry into Heaven?
When the state puts an offender to death, the state acts like a traffic constable who destroys the vehicle along with the driver for a grievous mistake committed by the driver. The right step would be to attach the vehicle, cancel the driver’s right to drive, and use the vehicle for transporting garbage, or restrain the offender from civil freedom, cancel the person’s right to live, and retain the offender for transporting garbage. BUT NEVER, NEVER, PUT A PERSON TO DEATH.
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