Friday, 12 February 2010

Moral right

Swami Gulagulaananda asked:
"Given the ability to kill a person at will, would you kill all criminals or would you feel that killing criminals is a crime, and that would put me in the same basket as them?"

A very interesting question, this is also the theme of very popular anime series, "Deathnote" and popular TV show, "Dexter". This question is being asked to each of you, because there is always a difference between the politically correct answer, and the answer that you feel crying out from within, which is often suppressed, because you don't want others to look at you in a weird manner, although, many times, they also feel the same.

If you know that a certain person has committed a crime, should you allow the justice machinery to take care of it? Or should you step in and take law into your hands and serve your version of justice? Let me give you some simple real life examples.

Consider the infamous Mumbai attacks of 26/11. We know that certain terrorists have committed the heinous crime, and most of them, thanks to our brave warriors, are dead. However, we have one surviving comrade of theirs. There is always a debate about what needs to be done with this man. The initial answer was to get as much information out of him as possible, in order to get to the bottom of this. Now that we are at the bottom of it, and after squeezing all the possible juice of information out of him, must we allow him to live? This question enters many minds. He apparently sucks out a lot of money from the treasury, for his maintenance and food. Is it not simpler to kill him? After all, we already have a lot of evidence aganist him, and yet we let him live. Ok, we'll keep this aside for the moment.

Let's take another "popular" figure down here in the South. Mr. Pramod Muthalik, the chief of Sri Rama Sene. He committed some crimes of beating up women for whatever reasons he had. Now, a lot of people were aware of the crimes, but then, people were not satisfied with the type of justice dispensed. So, what needs to be done about it becomes the question...

That's the difference between Gandhi and the others. Gandhi had a tremendous amount of patience and non violence flowing in his very veins. So, though Gandhi saw a large number of atrocities happening around him, he always took it in the chin, and never resorted to, nor incite
others to resort to violence. Why did he take this approach? It's simply for the 'moral right' as it's plainly put. Moral rights and moral courage are two words that are quite interesting. What I am trying to say is, if Pramod Muthalik beats up people, and you go beat up or put ink on Muthalik's face, then you automatically lose the moral right to comment about his violence. Or rather, that is the topic of this discussion - Whether you do lose the moral right or if it's justified to hurt someone who is wrong and has hurt others.

Deathnote puts it very well, by giving the protagonist the power to kill anyone by giving him a book with supernatural powers that allows him to kill anyone he pleases by writing their names in the book. He uses it to kill criminals by dispensing his version of justice. Such people develop God complex, similar to a dictator or a king, because the entire power of life and death comes in their hand, and they get to kill whoever they please, and we should trust in their judgement.

There is another group, similar to Gandhi, which says that if you go around killing people, perpetrators or otherwise, then you yourself are a criminal. Unlike the first group which feels that they don't mind becoming criminals for the sake of "cleansing" the society, the second group believes in keeping a clean conscience. They claim that there is no guarantee that the first group will not get corrupt because of their power. This is the reason you shouldn't do the very same thing that you are opposing - You will lose the moral right to talk against it later on... This sounds a lot like practice what you preach. Interestingly, this is against, contradicting, the other famous quote of Swami Gulagulaananda, when he said
"If I am a chain smoker and you are one, and I ask you to quit smoking saying that smoking causes cancer, you should be verifying if what I said is true or false, and then if true, quit smoking for your own good instead of telling me to mind my business as I smoke myself. The advice is for your own good, and you are the one who will suffer, irrespective of whether I suffer or not. We should be looking into the truth of the matter. " [in this post]

7 comments:

Prashanth N Bhat said...

It should be determined by whether justice is served when a particular punishment is met out to a criminal. I would say justice is served when the criminal sees the error in his ways or when one crime is prevented in future by the punishment.

When one person or a group of persons are given carte blanche to judge, it is human nature to get corrupted and misuse the power. The solution to this
would be to strengthen the judicial system infinitely which certainly isn't possible.

While cleansing the society may be good at times, once a criminal is not always a criminal, few persons can certainly be reformed. How do you judge who is to be cleansed?

Then there are some people who are physically incapable of feeling any emotion, any conscience. How do you deal with such people who can't even imagine that they are wrong.

It's all dependent on the individual criminal. But how do you determine what course of action to take? I'm an idealist and this is my viewpoint. For people who certainly know that they are wrong, have no reasonable justification for their action, and won't repent, burn them on a stake, it will certainly stop few crimes. For others, let the system take care of them. However I know this is not feasible, the demand on the infrastructure and the personnel simply cannot be achieved without crippling other essential systems(which in turn may lead to more crime)

Prashanth N Bhat said...

It should be determined by whether justice is served when a particular punishment is met out to a criminal. I would say justice is served when the criminal sees the error in his ways or when one crime is prevented in future by the punishment.

When one person or a group of persons are given carte blanche to judge, it is human nature to get corrupted and misuse the power. The solution to this
would be to strengthen the judicial system infinitely which certainly isn't possible.

While cleansing the society may be good at times, once a criminal is not always a criminal, few persons can certainly be reformed. How do you judge who is to be cleansed?

Then there are some people who are physically incapable of feeling any emotion, any conscience. How do you deal with such people who can't even imagine that they are wrong.

It's all dependent on the individual criminal. But how do you determine what course of action to take? I'm an idealist and this is my viewpoint. For people who certainly know that they are wrong, have no reasonable justification for their action, and won't repent, burn them on a stake, it will certainly stop few crimes. For others, let the system take care of them. However I know this is not feasible, the demand on the infrastructure and the personnel simply cannot be achieved without crippling other essential systems(which in turn may lead to more crime)

Mithun said...

A very interesting post Nikhil..

Foxthrot said...

Ok.... There are a lot of thoughts that crop up in my mind when you speak of criminals and offences............ There are two aspects that need equal attention..... First is Justice to the affected ones and the next is Prevention of such future acts...... So when a criminal commits a henious offence and you beat him up or kill him, will just satisfy the first clause being justice to the offended but prevention of such future acts is totally let down as todays world is divided into two class of people: one class which agree with what you have done and the other class which disagrees with what you have done. Both the classes do not show any signs of compromise and this fact leads to arguments/counterarguments/fights/revenges etc.... and its a never ending cycle where in each class feels justice is attained by snubbing the other class.... What I am trying to say here is inflicting of pain to a criminal in any form in the name of justice will not help prevention of crimes.... So now comes the question of prevention of such future acts........ Whats the value for a persons life is he is killed? I mean, was all the love/affection/care or friendship he/she received and gave to others a waste? If there is a way that he/she realizes what he has done is wrong and feels remorse then there is no one in the world who can stop him from changing to a lay man.....That said killing is definitely out of question...... So how do you become a cause of bringing about a change in a criminal who deserves to be killed without killing him? Just make the person feel what death really is? i.e. Send the person to the gallows, but dont hang him. The instant rope hangs around his neck is the time he feels remorse and is the turing point of the criminals life. So the fact that he was sentenced to death gives Justice to offended..... and making the person feel death and the sense of being snatched from the hands of death would bring about a change that would prevent occurances of such future acts....... [All that I have written here is just what I feel.... It is in no way written to offend anyone or their thoughts.... I believe everyone in the world is right in their thinking that they are always correct... Its purely subjective in nature].......

Bipin Kumar said...

nice post.. :)

Bipin Kumar said...

Narayan, I completely agree wid u dat killing criminals wud neva lead to the prevention of such acts in future. But hw sure can u be, dat by jus sendin dem to gallows wud bring a drastic change in dem? The success in dat case might be 1 out of 100 (or may be less). The rest 99 might feel at dat instant, bt later dey won't hesitate to resort to same old things.

Any person must ve a gr8 deal of mental as well as physical strength to kill someone. Am sure killing isn't dat easy :P Den hw do u expect dem to fear d gallows?

So now d question arises, wat shud be done to dem? If de r left free, den definitely it wont be fair & killing dem wud be a crime itself. I believe, to satisfy both the class of ppl (whom u mentioned abt, n i agree wid), the criminal shud be punished severely., in such way dat even d person who plans to become d next criminal shud neva dream abt becomin one! The fear wic dey want to instill in the minds of common ppl., y not we instill the same fear in their minds??

Sometimes, its all mind games!! :)

Bipin Kumar said...

prashanth, nice thought! :)