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Afzal Guru - I

The Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai strongly condemns the hanging of Afzal Guru by the Indian state. Death sentence is an arbitrary and cruel mode of punishment that is irreversible, imposed by fallible human beings in a subjective manner and has no place in a civilised society. The “rarest of rare” idiom is irrationally applied. Whether one lives or dies depends on the prejudices of a particular judge or on the government to earn political mileage. Hence, death penalty should be abolished.

Afzal was denied a fair trial and not accorded the constitutional precautions he was entitled to. He was also denied the opportunity to adequately defend himself against a capital offence. The only evidence against him was circumstantial. Competent legal aid was not made available to Afzal by the trial court, which is where the foundation of a criminal case is laid. His lawyer admitted the crucial identification of the deceased terrorists and did not cross-examine crucial prosecution witnesses. Afzal repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the lawyer before the trial court, but the trial court did not feel it fit to appoint an experienced lawyer to represent him. The other evidence relied upon to establish “beyond reasonable doubt” Afzal’s implication was clearly fabricated by the police or was flimsy, not sufficient to convict a person, let alone award him death sentence.
The acceptance of this evidence by the Supreme Court is a departure from principles of criminal jurisprudence of this country, and the only explanation for the conviction and awarding of death sentence is what the Supreme Court stated in its judgment: (that the) “collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender. The challenge to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India by these acts of terrorists and conspirators can only be compensated by giving the maximum punishment to the person who is proved to be the conspirator in this treacherous act.”

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