Monday, April 26, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Death-row prisoner seeks court’s permission to sire child

A married couple, who got a death sentence and life term, has filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking conjugal rights within the prison so that they could give their family an heir.

The couple has been incarcerated in the Patiala Central Jail since 2005 separately. It was only after eight months of their marriage that they were arrested on charges of kidnapping and then killing a 16-year-old schoolboy. Jasvir Singh and Sonia of Hoshiarpur got married in their early 20s. They were a happy couple, but Jasvir was a greedy man who wanted to earn quick money. He decided that the best way to make a fortune was to kidnap a rich boy.

He zeroed in on a wealthy trader Ravi Verma’s only son Abhi Verma. Jasvir was helped by his friend Vikram to commit this heinous crime. They kidnapped the young Abhi and then demanded Rs 50 lakh as ransom money. When the amount did not come, Abhi was given a heavy dose of sedative. He never recovered from it and died. It was after this that Sonia stepped in. She helped her husband in disposing of the boy’s body. They thought that they would not be spotted. But they were busted.

After deliberating on the case, the court gave them death penalty. However, the Supreme Court while upholding the death sentence of Jasvir and Vikram converted the death sentence of Sonia into life imprisonment on the premise that she acted under the pressure of her husband.

Gursharan Kaur Maan, counsel for the couple says: “Both have asked the court to allow them conjugal rights in the jail. This has been allowed to prisoners in many developed countries.” But Jeevan Garg, superintendent of Patiala Central Jail, doesn’t agree with her. He says: “We have no such precedent. So far, we have not received any instruction from the seniors.” Lawyer Maan is not ready to budge. She argues: “In their case, the demand is not for personal sexual gratification. Jasvir is the only son of his parents and they wish to have a child to save the lineage.” The issue that has grabbed headlines across the country has divided society. Some people are fiercely opposing it.

They say child killers should not be allowed to have a child as the crime strips them of their civil rights. However, others argue if the purpose of punishment is to reform the culprits then they should be allowed conjugal rights for the sole purpose of having a child. All eyes are on May 24 when the Punjab and Haryana court hears the case. A positive judgment may have a long-term impact on prison laws and human rights in India.

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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