Well, this can probably be called a sequel of my earlier article – “Is India Scared of Executions?”
The other day, done with the episodes of Big Bang Theory, I decided to start with “House” – an American TV medical drama centered around a diagnostician Dr. House (the central character) and his team that solves cases through on medical diagnostics (one case per episode).
This was the first episode of the second season where a guy on a death sentence suddenly finds himself rushed into the hospital by House after he diagnosis him as hypoxic after his heart starts beating abnormally high enough to pump air instead of blood. Going through a series of brainstorming on the symptoms and the causes, not to forget the discovery of new symptoms and causes, House finds out that the prisoner (convicted for four murders – his girlfriend, a rival gang member inmate, a guard and a second inmate) is suffering from pheochromocytoma – a rare form of tumor that sits on top of the adrenal gland and randomly dumps adrenaline into the body. However, the best (and the most thought worthy) part of the episode was the conversation between House and Foreman (Diagnostician in House’s Team) in the last minutes of the episode. It goes something like this:
Foreman: Looks like they got the pheo out successfully. So, what now?
House: Clarence goes back to death row.
Foreman: Just like that?
House: He’s cured.
Foreman: That tumor caused random shots of adrenalin, which obviously led to the rage attacks that made him become a murderer in the first place
House: My God, you’re right!!! Let’s call the surgeons, we gotta save that tumor. Put it on the witness stand.
Foreman: We could testify at Clarence’s appeal.
House: You smell that? I think that is the stink of hypocrisy. You wouldn’t even consider the notion that Clarence’s social upbringing was responsible for what he became, but now you’re sprinting to the witness stand to blame everything on a little tumor.
Foreman: A person’s upbringing and their biology are completely different.
House: Yeah. Because you only overcame one of them. Well, let’s just give Clarence a free pass. Which is probably gonna piss off all those other pheo sufferers who managed to control their rage attacks and become lawyers, race car drivers, or even doctors. Removing that tumor puts a stop to those random shots of adrenaline. IT DOESN’T ABSOLVE HIM.
This made me think of the premises of justification of crimes, especially heinous crime like murders. The premises frequently used by the defendants, their lawyers in the court – medical illness, upbringing, family background, age etc. And these premises have been the basis of court verdicts as well. Going one step ahead, human rights organizations even cite laws specifying “Protection of Life and Personal Liberty” as the basis for acquittals of the accused. But how much is this justified? Especially the last dialog of Dr. House hit the nail when he mentioned about others who have managed to control their illness and live as normal life as possible.
What about those millions of Pakistani youths who did not go Kasab or Afzal Guru’s way? What about those millions of Tamilians who chose to excel in science and technology instead of going for Rajiv Gandhi assassination? What about those millions of people in the country who have very justifiable reasons to kill someone but instead prioritize their self-development to become a better human being? Doesn’t acquitting the murderers on medical or social grounds a contempt of all those who could have chosen the same path but didn’t? At the end of the day, it is the person’s own choices that make him what he is.
The conversation of the episode also reminded me of the Pune bus driver who went on a rampage, a day before I watched the episode, killing 9 people and injuring around 27 others. It was later on revealed that the driver was mentally ill. This made me wonder what is going to happen to him. While the Pune lawyers refused to represent him on humanitarian grounds, it brings in a legal deadlock where the trial cannot proceed without a defense counsel. If Santosh Mane finds a legal representative, who is really in a mood to actually defend him, the later would surely to exploit the point of mental illness to either move the verdict in favor of the accused or at least reduce the possible death sentence to life sentence.
India is a perfectly safe heaven when it comes to crimes equating to death penalty with only one execution in the last 17 years and none in the last 7. Surely, he is not gonna get hanged even if he is sentenced to. Doesn’t matter if he kills 9 or 90. The details of his mental illness or what exactly happened on that ill-fated morning is not out but it cannot be anything that wouldn’t have happened to any other bus driver in the country or, for that matter, any other person in this country. It was Mane’s choice to lose his mind and go on a rampage for about an hour. If he gets acquitted or anything less than death sentence, it would be an insult to all those who are as mentally ill as he is but did not opt for a killing spree. It would be insult to all those who lost their lives in that carnage for no reason.