Millennium Post

‘It shouldn’t have taken so long to hang Afzal Guru’

You had ordered Afzal Guru’s hanging for his involvement in the 2001Parliament attack case? What was your first reaction when you heard of his execution in February this year?

It was something like surprise. Surprise because his execution was so sudden, without any intimation to anyone. I could not believe what I had heard. But it was not unexpected. Afzal Guru knew it. His family knew it. They have know it for the past several years. And after the hanging of Azmal Kasab, the family must have known that his case was pending. So it was not a new thing for them. He had already exhausted all possible legal options available to him.

Do you agree with the way Afzal Guru was hanged - in complete secrecywithout  even his family being allowed to meet him for one last time before he was hanged?

If the government has intelligence reports that there might be law and order issues if news of his pending execution was broadcast and that it might result in more deaths, the government has the option of carrying out the execution without announcing it. It is for the  for the country’s executive body to decide, taking into consideration the situation in the country. The family should have been informed, but then had the family been informed about the hanging, it would not have remained a secret and the whole purpose could have been defeated. The family could have been brought to New Delhi to allow them to meet him for one last time before his hanging. But then again, it is for the executive to decide.

It took quite a while to get your order executed, even though the High Court and Supreme Court had cleared it long back...

It took eight years to hang Guru, even after the higher courts had upheld the decision to hang him. It should not have taken more than a month at the most.  The delay was not because of any pending legalities. No human  rights issue was involved. What took so long? The government had to just either accept or reject his mercy plea. There should not be any delay in such cases. The more you delay, the more time you are giving them and also delays in such cases won’t help the country in fighting terrorism. It is very unfortunate that the decision over the mercy petition took so long to take.

Do you think politics was the reason for the delay in hanging Afzal Guru?

The matter was certainly politicised. The problem in our country is that every thing gets politicised, even a small decision. Nothing moves without politics in our country. Politics has become a prime mover in our country.

Do we have sufficient laws to deal with cases related to acts of terror?

Our laws to deal with terrorism are totally insufficient, and so is the mindset of the judges dealing with those cases. Both need to be changed. Judges think of many external factors while deciding such cases, such as what would the people think of the decision and what would be their reaction to it. These cases should be decided on the gravity of the crime that has been committed and judges should ignore small little things in dealing with these cases. We are a very soft state. This is the softest state in the world. Criminals get VIP status in jails. I have not seen it happen anywhere else in the world.

Do you believe Afzal Guru’s execution will send a tough message to terrorists trying to destabilise the country?

It will certainly send a strong message. Today in our country we are facing the kind of terrorism, where perpetrators of such acts use human bombs and blow themselves up to kill others. I am not saying that by hanging some terrorists, terrorism would be wiped off from our country but it would reduce the number of terrorists.

There are those in the country who have raised their voices against capital punishment. Do you think the time has come to rethink the subject or is capital punishment necessary for dealing with terror crimes in the country?

Personally, I do not agree with the demand for abolition of death penalty. Capital punishment acts as a deterrent for criminals. Top criminals are living in jails. They can continue their activities from jails because it is possible. Mobile phones are used in jails. In jails there is a different kind of fiefdom. Then there are normal prisoners and VIP prisoners in jails who get special facilities. If there would be no capital punishment, they would continue their nefarious activities from jails without any fear.
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