The rape, murder and burning of the veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has citizens calling for justice, with suggestions that the alleged rapists be annihilated in the same way they killed the young lady.
As repeated incidents of rape and similar brazen crimes get reported from across the country, citizens seek speedy punishment of criminals by hanging to death, lynching and, in the Hyderabad incident, by dousing with kerosene and burning.
As cases languish for years, anger brims over. But can this be channelled into a process where hardened criminals deserving of a death sentence be used instead for a greater common good? In clinical trials for life-saving medicine, for instance?
This should not be a cloak-and-dagger operation, where prisoners are carted off surreptitiously. Instead it should be openly stated that criminals convicted in heinous crimes would be enrolled in trials for, say a serious cancer drug. This could act as a deterrent to crime, compared to a quick execution. It could also increase the chances of a conviction, as it is reversible compared to a death sentence. And significantly, it could help bring out critical medicines where volunteers are not available, besides saving animals presently used in medicine trials.
The suggestion walks a fine ethical line in balancing crime and punishment with public good. But can we really claim a moral compass when mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, beagle dogs, monkeys, chimpanzees etc are captured, caged and put through medicine trials?
A young woman in Mumbai said on the Hyderabad case: “The criminal needs to live and pay for it. Death is the easy way out.” In fact, prisoners are often ordered to do community service. Maybe it’s time to notch this up to medicine trials for hardened criminals convicted of the worst crimes. So justice can be delivered in more ways that one.
The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine