Reform better than mere punishment?
So finally, after 14 long years, sentences in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case have been announced and all the accused, including the high-profile film star Sanjay Dutt, have been convicted. The punishments vary—from death sentences to probation.
Everyone has an opinion on the judgement. I am no exception. I am sharing mine here.
After I heard about the conviction, I pondered: What is the purpose of punishments? The idea of punishment strikes me as odd. The law of the land is not about getting even, is it? I think the law is for protecting the society from anti-social elements. In my opinion, punishing people with death penalties or rigorous imprisonments doesn’t serve the larger goal of the society.
I am strongly in favour of reform and rehabilitation in place of punishment. We must aim at eliminating the crime, not the criminal. This is not to say that we leave criminals free to roam. By all means confine the convicted in closed spaces like jails. But give them an opportunity to get reformed. In fact, active steps should be taken towards changing the criminal’s bent of mind.
In my column, I have covered fragmented efforts of some jailors, police officers and NGOs in bringing reformist activities such as meditation camps to jails. Read All in the mind. Also read about Bihar Government’s initiative: Fresh move for reforms in jails.
However, the best-known reform activist I know of is Kiran Bedi, winner of the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay award, whose initiative of introducing Vipassana meditation brought about a change in the outlook of inmates of Tihar jail, one of Asia’s largest prisons. Bedi is definitely a role model for police officers anywhere in the world.
But initiatives like hers should be taken by the central government at the universal level. Every prison in the country should become a reform centre with one objective: eliminate crime.
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