Facebook and its use among Jamia students: A study

May 22, 2012 by admin  
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New Delhi, May 21, 2012: The study looks at issues pertaining to privacy on Facebook among the students of Jamia. The findings are based on seven focus group discussions conducted at various departments of Jamia Millia Islamia. The study reveals that there is gross ignorance among most students on how personal user information is collected, used and shared by Facebook. Ignorance of it leaves them susceptible to cyber crimes like identity theft, data theft, cyber bullying, and hacking. In addition, it leaves them open to having their online activity monitored and analyzed by private companies in order to hit them with targeted advertisements.

Introduction
Over the past few years, much has been talked about user privacy on Facebook. Facebook has changed its privacy policy time and again. And last winter, Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, declared the death of privacy. One of the leading arguments behind this claim has been that we live in a new era, beyond the ‘age of privacy.’ The new social norm for the next generation is to share freely and without regard for such antiquated concerns as – privacy.
Objective

Our main focus of the study was to understand how Facebook users in Jamia manage their personal information. Our objective is to understand how students understand the term ‘privacy’ and how they manage the risk of ‘Infringement of Privacy’ on Facebook; whether students know how their personal information is protected and used by Facebook.

Research Methodology
For the study, the main sources of information were seven focus group discussions for qualitative data collection. And for quantitative data, participants were asked to fill out questionnaires.

The focus group discussions were conducted in Jamia Millia Islamia’s seven Centers/Departments; namely, Department of History, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Urdu Mass Media, Faculty of Education, Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, and Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations.

The total number of students interviewed for the study were 32, between the ages of 18 and 27 years. Each group comprised of no more than seven participants.

Research Findings
Besides collecting information pertaining to our objective, participants were also asked a few questions related to their Facebook usage habits and purpose.

Internet Accessibility
We found, 66% of the respondents had internet access at home. Out of the 34% students who did not have internet access at home, 33% accessed it through their mobile phones and 67% through cyber cafés, and thus all participants were Facebook users.

Motivation to Join Facebook
In our research, one of the main questions we asked was: “What motivated you to join Facebook?” The question was open-ended, so we got several different replies. A majority of the respondents (83%) said they were influenced or pressured by their friends to join. It was the popular thing to do. Few students (9%) joined for educational purposes and 4% for professional purposes. A few (2%) joined Facebook to reconnect with old friends. Interestingly, an equal number of participants (2%) joined for media entertainment purposes.

Frequency of Usage
For most of the students, Facebook has become part of their daily/weekly routine. Our study finds that few students (6%) are addicted to Facebook; so much so that they are on Facebook throughout the day, from morning to late at night. Internet service on mobile phones has tremendously facilitated “Facebooking” (defined as the act of using Facebook), and now students can check and update their status even while they are in class.

More than half of the students (67%) are daily Facebook users, while 19% are weekly users, followed by 8% who are monthly users.

Change in Purpose
Our next question was, now that they have been using Facebook for some time, has their purpose to use Facebook changed in any way from the one they had before they joined Facebook?

A majority of the students (68%) said they still use Facebook to interact with friends; however, a significant number of them (23%) said they also use Facebook to make new friends. There were only a few respondents (7%) who said they use Facebook to be in touch with their family. Interestingly, few of them (2%) said they use Facebook to follow their favorite celebrities.

Self-representation
The virtual and physical world contains the same basic forms of self-representation; the only difference is, the virtual world is much more self-controlled and self-constructed. The way people represent themselves in the virtual and physical worlds has similarities and differences. In the physical world people are able to be identified by their clothes, physical features, mannerisms, and their use of language. Similarly, in the cyber-world, people are identified by the language they use, and how they choose to visually represent themselves.

Of all the ways to represent oneself on Facebook, we found that majority of the respondents (46%) represent themselves by uploading pictures, picture tagging (19%), status update (17%), followed by uploading videos (12%), and there were 6% respondents who said they do not represent themselves by either updating their status, posting pictures, or videos. Instead, they limit themselves to chatting with their friends and to checking their friends’ Facebook activity. And it is in this way they feel connected.

There are instances at universities (not in Jamia) where inappropriate use of Facebook has led to university authorities taking disciplinary action against offending students. So we (researchers) wanted to know from the respondents whether they believed any of their actions could lead to infringement of privacy of others, and should such offenders be taken to task by the university administration.

According to our study, 89% of the respondents think that they do not infringe on other people’s privacy by uploading and tagging other people’s pictures and videos, or posting their GPS location; while the rest (11%) think they do infringe on other people’s privacy in ways mentioned earlier.

Awareness of Facebook’s Privacy Policy
On being asked whether participants had ever read Facebook’s privacy policy, a majority of the students (85%) said they had never read Facebook’s privacy policy, while a meager 6% said they had read it completely. But there were a few (9%) who said they had read it in brief, partially.

Responsibility for Objectionable Content on Facebook
Due to lack of substantial internet related laws, Facebook is increasingly being held responsible for objectionable content posted on its website by its users.

When asked whether Facebook should be held responsible for objectionable content, our study finds that majority of the respondents (53%) think that Facebook should be held responsible for objectionable content, while 38% think Facebook should not be held responsible for user generated content. And 9% did not have an opinion.

Awareness of Facebook’s Advertisement Policy
We wanted to know if the students had read the advertisement policy on Facebook, and whether they were aware advertisers were made available of a user’s personal information once a user clicked on any of the ads. We found that 84% students had not read it and only 13% students had, which was followed by 3% who had read it partially.

Focus Group Discussion Analysis
The study reveals that privacy may be considered conducive to and necessary for intimacy, since intimacy resides in selectively revealing private information to certain individuals but not to others. Trust may increase or decrease within an online social network. At the same time, a new form of intimacy becomes widespread: the sharing of personal information with a large number of friends and strangers alike.

For example, many students considered sharing their information important in order to connect with the outside world for making new contacts. At the same time few believed that in order to be private they can either customize the visibility of their information or not reveal any personal information on Facebook.

Advertisement
Few students knew about tailor made advertisements that Facebook employs as an advertising strategy. Few think that it is a nuisance. Majority of the students were not aware of the consequences of “liking” an advertisement on Facebook.

Facebook privacy policy explicitly states that they may disclose information to third parties, which is a clear infringement of user’s privacy. Therefore there is a ghost profile for every user of Facebook, with the private companies who advertise on Facebook. When we asked students about advertisement policy or the consequence of clicking on ads, very few knew what it was, as already mentioned earlier. We found only one student who knew about tailored made advertisements but did not mind Facebook sharing personal information with private companies in order to be provided with tailor-made ads. On the other hand, there were few who were not aware of the consequences of clicking on a Facebook ad but still never clicked on them because they considered these ads to be a nuisance.

Surveillance
On the question of surveillance, most respondents claimed to know that the government monitors content on Facebook. However, interestingly, two opposing views were expressed on the issue during discussions. One view expressed no objection to the idea of corporations having access to personal information and browsing habits, but objected to the idea of governments having the same information. The other view was that it was the duty of the government to monitor people’s internet use, but the government should not censor their content because that would mean a violation of their right to free expression.

Data Theft
Out of a sample size of 32, there were four victims of data theft and hacking. Two girls were victims of identity theft in which fake Facebook accounts were created in their name, using their pictures and personal information. Also, a male student discovered a fake account made with his picture on the account profile. He later found out that it was his friend who had created the fake account.

A student also narrated an incidence of misuse of password, which gave unauthorized access to his account.

In every instance, the perpetrator of identity theft was an acquaintance of the victim.

Third Party Applications and Games
We found out that majority of the students do not use third party games and applications on Facebook. And the reasons mentioned were either that they do not find games and applications interesting, or they feel that these games and applications slow down the speed of their computer, so they keep away from them. The ones who use third party games and applications on Facebook did not realize they allow Facebook to share their personal information when they click on the “Allow” button before they get to use them.

Conclusion

We found that there are some students who feel that Facebook is a private space, and withholding or sharing personal information is a personal choice. In terms of usage, many use it regularly and actively, while there are others who choose to be inactive in terms of updating content but use Facebook to stay in touch with friends by chatting and following their friend’s Facebook activity .

We also found that the notion of privacy is different for everyone. Everyone decides differently on what is private and what is not by customizing their privacy settings.

Furthermore, students do not log onto Facebook to merely express themselves but also to form communities that organize and run group projects.

We also found that there is ignorance regarding consequences of privacy infringement because 75% of the students were not aware of web cookies which can steal their information even when they are off-line. Moreover, 85% students had not read the privacy policies and were also not aware of the impact of using Facebook third party games and applications.

At the end of our discussion with every group, we asked whether they would consider deleting their Facebook accounts now that they were aware of the many privacy infringement issues associated with it. The students unanimously said – No. Deleting their account would bring an end to their virtual world. A world they have come to depend on to fulfill their social needs.

- tcn

Muslims need a Gujjar movement, not conferences and seminars

May 22, 2012 by admin  
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New Delhi, May 21, 2012: It seems conventions, conferences, symposium, seminar, debate and discussions have become a trademark of Muslim organizations. By passing long and high-voltage resolutions the leaders of these organizations think they have done their job well. This is happening since after the Independence. These resolutions have no impact on governments at all. The Milli leaders also know it well that no one will take their resolutions seriously and they are bound to fall on deaf ears.

Resolutions won’t solve problem
Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind organized its 31st General Session on 19th May 2012 at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. It is said around 50 thousand people attended the conference. Speaking on terrorism and illegal detention of Muslim youths, Jamiat’s national president Maulana Qari Syed Mohammad Usman Mansoorpuri condemned terrorism of all forms and demanded the government to stop harassing Muslim youths in the name of investigation. Jamiat leader also demanded:1) Transparency in investigation be maintained rising above religion and caste; 2) A fast-track court be set up immediately, which should look at all cases of falsely accused at one designated place in a time-bound manner at daily basis; and 3)All Muslim youths found innocent must be adequately compensated, Character certificate, government job should be provided and the money be collected from the salary of official responsible for destruction of their life. Besides, Jamiat also demanded Muslim reservation, amendment in Article 341 of the Constitution, communal violence bill, end to injustice to Kashmiri people, citizenship rights in Assam etc.

No doubt the resolutions passed by the 31st General Session of Jamiat are the voice and the concern of the community but what impact it will make is also a known fact. Forget about conferences, symposiums and seminars, the last two months witnessed many protest marches and rallies against the illegal detentions of Muslim youths. To utter surprise when these marches and rallies were being held, Maharashtra police was scripting encounter of Muslim youths in Aurangabad and Karnataka police was planning to arrests more Muslim youths from Bihar.

Interestingly, while addressing the Jamiat conference the chief minister of Delhi called upon the massive gathering of Muslims to come forward to push for their demands and to take their rights.

Will Muslim leaders come out of their comforts?
But the Muslim community doesn’t know when these Ulama will come forward and fight for their rights. It has been observed that generally these Ulema and their organizations come forward to impress political parties when the Parliament is in session just to make sure a Rajya Sabha seat for their leader or settle their score by organizing a conference against the conference organized by the rival group. These Ulama who proclaim Nanotwi, practically they have shunned the way of struggling hard like their themselves to be inheritors of Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan and Qasim forefathers and have made themselves confined in conference grounds and seminar rooms. They rarely come out to protest on roads against the injustice. Can’t they learn a lesson from Jaats and Gujjars? Leaders of these castes braved scorching sun and heavy rain and police actions, they laid themselves on the railway tracks and ultimately they got success. How many of our Milli leaders are ready to come out of their comforts, AC rooms and AC cars?

In the past when the whole Urdu media was crying over the series of bomb blasts and speaking loudly and clearly that these could not be the acts of Muslim community and some others are involved in these acts of terror, the same Jamiat was organizing a series of conferences to teach the Muslim youths the lessons of tolerance and declaring that Islam is nothing to do with terror. For them brainwashed Muslims were behind those acts of terror. But when saffron brigades were found involved behind those terrorist attacks the same Jamiat Ulama is now organizing conferences to demand the government to stop illegal arrest of Muslim youths.

No doubt these organizations were assets in the past and had played a significant role for the community but now these assets seem to have become liabilities.

No doubt Jamiat’s (Arshad Madni Group) role in fighting some cases in which Muslim youths are implicated and illegally detained is a laudable act and is an example for other Milli organizations to follow.

Why no joint strategy even on consensus issues?
Other major issue is the lack of unity among Muslim organizations even though they have same views on specific issues. For example, Muslim reservation, communal violence bill or terror arrest of innocents – these are the three major issues today and fortunately all Muslim organizations have same view on them, but unfortunately they are not chalking out joint and united strategy for these issues.

Last month Milli Council organized a convention on the topic of “Muslim Youth Protection” in Delhi. Recently Jamaat-e-Islami Hind declared to launch a campaign against the illegal arrests of Muslim youths. And now two days ago, Jamiat Ulema raised the same issue at its Ramlila Maidan conference. But the fact is that no government will heed to their demand and take these organizations seriously unless they get united on common issues and come out from seminar and symposium rooms and take their demands to the street.

Act before it gets too late
They will have to act before it gets too late. In fact conspirators are out to create a war-like situation in our country. They want to create frustration among Muslim youths. They want to provoke Muslims. They want to instigate Muslim youths. The time has come for the Muslim leaders to come forward and control the situation from getting worse.

- tcn

PM condoles death of Congressman NKP Salve

April 4, 2012 by admin  
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New Delhi, April 2, 2012: The nonagenarian was buried at a Christian cemetery in Nagpur.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condoled the death of former federal minister N.K.P salve, who died yesterday in Delhi.

Salve, 91, was buried today at a Christian cemetery in Jaripatka in Nagpur.

In his condolence message, Singh said Salve was a veteran politician who served the country in different capacities over many decades.

He made lasting contributions in the promotion of education in Maharashtra and worked hard to develop cricket in the country.

Singh said Salve was closely associated with the 1987 World Cup, which was held in the subcontinent for the first time.

A chartered accountant by profession, Salve served as Power minister in late prime minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet and also worked with prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao. He was also the head of the ninth Planning Commission.

A widower, Salve is survived by his son Harish, a leading lawyer and a former solicitor general, and daughter Arundhati.

- zeenews/ibnlive

PM: Schemes changing situation of minorities

December 31, 2011 by admin  
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DalitsNew Delhi, December 29, 2011: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday said the central government has launched several schemes based on recommendations of the Sachar Committee and these were bringing a change in the situation of the minorities.

Speaking at the International Dalit and Minorities Conference here, the prime minister said that it was often said that the government had not implemented the recommendations of the committee, but that was not true.

“The government has launched several schemes based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and these were bringing change in the situation of the minorities. But I agree that we need to fasten the process,” he said.

The seven-member committee, headed by former chief justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, gave its report to the central government in 2006 on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims.

Listing out the schemes launched by the government for minorities and Dalits, the prime minister said that the government was committed to take steps for development of the minorities.

“We have brought the forest rights act which provides ownership of forest land to indigenous people. There has been an increase in the recruitment of minorities in government jobs, security forces and banking services,” he said.

- tcn

Government mulling quota for Muslims within OBCs: Salman Khurshid

December 3, 2011 by admin  
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Muslim CommunityNew Delhi, December 1, 2011: In a significant move ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Law Minister Salman Khurshid Thursday said the government is considering reservation to backward Muslims within the 27 percent quota fixed for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and a decision on the issue will be taken soon.

Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Khurshid said a move on fixing a quota for backward Muslims within the OBC quota would come before the cabinet “soonest” but did not give a timeline.

“Of 27 percent OBC quota in jobs, the government is examining to fix a quota for backward Muslims,” he said.

He said the issue has been on the government’s agenda for the last two years and a decision was pending.

The Congress also backed the government on the move to provide reservations to minorities within OBC quota.

Khurshid pointed to the promise made in party’s manifesto for 2009 polls which talked of extending reservation to minorities to the central level.

“For having reservation within reservation for backward minorities as done in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, we are observing it as it is our commitment to do it. We are hopeful of fulfilling our commitment. We are working on it,” he said.

Asked why the decision was coming ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Khurshid said that work cannot stop if elections were round the corner.

“Should we stop working ahead of the polls in the state… Whatever we think is our responsibility, we are doing,” he said.

He said the United Progressive Alliance II government had completed half its term and has to take stock of what it has done and what is left to be done.

Khurshid also took a dig at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati saying she can provide quotas to minorities in the state.

“If she is so concerned, she could do the same for jobs in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

Congress spokesman Raashid Alvi said the government was working at a fast pace to implement its promise for reservation to minorities.

“Government is working at a very fast pace to implement this part of manifesto so that they (minorities) get their share among other backward classes,” Alvi said.

The Congress manifesto had said that the party was committed to ensuring that the constitutional rights of minorities were protected fully and their representation in public administration increases.

“The Indian National Congress has pioneered reservations for minorities in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in government employment and education on the basis of their social and economic backwardness. We are committed to adopt this policy at the national level,” the manifesto said.

Uttar Pradesh is scheduled to go for polls next year and Congress has launched its campaign in the state. The announcement is being linked to the party’s efforts to woo minorities in the crucial election.

- ians

Government working on reservation for minorities: Congress

New Delhi, December 1, 2011: In a significant move ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress Thursday said the government was working speedily to give reservation to minorities within the OBC quota.

Congress spokesman Raashid Alvi said here that the party had mentioned in its election manifesto of 2009 too that it had pioneered reservations in government jobs and educational institutions for minorities in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on the basis of their social and economic backwardness and was committed to adopting the measure at the national level.

“Government is working at a very fast pace to implement this part of manifesto so that they (minorities) get their share among backward classes,” Alvi said.

The Congress manifesto had said that the party was committed to ensuring that the constitutional rights of minorities were protected fully and their representation in public administration increases.

- ians

Christian leaders demand a strong Lokpal bill

November 16, 2011 by admin  
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Lokpal BillNew Delhi, November 15, 2011: Reiterating their demand for an effective Lokpal Bill, Christian leaders from various denominations have given their suggestions to make the anti-corruption law more effective.

Churches recognize that laws alone do not wipe out corruption. However, it is still of the opinion that a strong legislation is required to fight against the social evil,” said the Catholic and protestant leaders in a statement.

The statement was issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, National Council of Churches in India and Young Women’s Christian Association.

The statement said that Team Anna’s version of the bill disturbs the balance of power of the judiciary, while there are weaknesses in the government bill.

It suggested that the bill should have jurisdiction over the prime minister with certain riders but at the same time his/her position should be safeguarded against malicious or baseless targeting by groups who would like to disrupt democracy.

The elected representatives should also come under its purview but they should continue to enjoy the privileges of the Parliament, the statement said.

It said that the Central Vigilance Commission needs to be revamped and accorded autonomy and the power to prosecute.

Judiciary should be kept out of the purview of the bill was another suggestion.

The statement said that the new bill should urge each state to have state Lokayuktas with similar powers of the Lokpal in the centre.

Introduction of appropriate grievance procedures and appointment of grievance redressal officers was also one of the suggestions.

It also stated that there should be a provision for recovery of the assets or confiscation of properties from the offenders.

- press release

Kejriwal meets Muslim clerics for Jan Lokpal movement

November 15, 2011 by admin  
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Arvind KejriwalUttar Pradesh, November 14, 2011: Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal met several Muslim clerics and intellectuals here Monday to garner support from the minority community for the Jan Lokpal movement, officials said.

According to sources in India Against Corruption (IAC), Kejriwal’s meetings were also aimed to counter the Congress’ allegation that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and not Muslims, were supporting the Jan Lokpal movement.

“Though corruption affects all of us, it hits the poor and downtrodden the most. And due to the poor financial conditions of our Muslim brothers, they get more affected by corruption,” Kejriwal told reporters.

“It’s our hard-earned money that is being misused… We all should get united for fighting corruption, which in turn would help in development of our country,” he added.

IAC officials claimed clerics and intellectuals, whom Kejriwal met, assured him to extend their full support to the Jan Lokpal movement.

“Those representing the minority community in the meeting were of the view that irrespective of caste, creed and religion, people of the country should come forward to root out the social menace,” said an IAC activist of Lucknow.

- ians

Muslim Clerics give cold shoulder to Kejriwal in Lucknow

Uttar Pradesh, November 14, 2011: Team Anna’s move to clear the air over Muslim’s aversion to its anti-graft stir, fell flat with most of the clerics turning down their invitation to attend a one to one session with Team Anna’s core committee member Arivind Kejriwal. The only solace being that one Imam of Teele Wali Masjid confirming his presence of the event which is scheduled on Monday. The remaining clerics are interested in meeting the activist at their residences only.

Arvind Kejriwal is scheduled to attend several programmes in Lucknow on Monday. The Indian Against Corruption (IAC) planned to invite the Muslim clerics in one such seminar to be organised at SIPS auditorium for interaction with Kejriwal. It was planned that the meeting will clear the misconception among Muslims and wins their support. Invitations for the same were extended to major clerics of Lucknow.

However on Sunday most of the declined and expressed their inability to attend the meet. They want Kejriwal to personally come to their residence, which appears highly unlikely. Vice-President, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Kalbe Sadiq admitted that IAC coordinator RK Agrawal met him and extended Kejriwal’s invite to meet me. However Sadiq stated that it was not an invitation for any meeting but his willingness to meet me.

“I agreed to meet him as my doors are open to everyone. When I can meet Sudarshan why not him (Kejriwal). I was informed about his willingness to meet me. No body invited me to any meeting at some other place,” remarked Sadiq.

Another cleric, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli stated “I have not received any invitation. But even if I get one, he should come to meet me if he wants. I would not go to meet him,” said Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali.

However, the organizers remained hopeful that the clerics will be coming to meet Kejriwal. IAC Co-ordinator, RK Aggrawal claimed that he met some clerics personally and called up several of them and they had given their consent.

Besides Maulana Sadiq, Maulana Fazlur-Rahman, IAC had also approached President, All India Women’s Personal Law Board, Shaista Amber, Padmashree Dr Mansoor Hasan Shaher Qazi, Maulana Irfan Farangi Mahali for the meeting and some others. However, only time will tell, how many of them turn up for the meeting.

- faisal fareed, tcn

The CSF supports this stand – Death sentence is judicial murder: Ex-SC judge

October 19, 2011 by admin  
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Former Supreme Court Judge K.T. Thomas

Former Supreme Court Judge K.T. Thomas. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar (The Hindu)

New Delhi, October 17, 2011: Death sentence is judicial murder, says former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas, who headed the bench that pronounced death punishment to three conspirators in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

“Death sentence is no punishment,”

Thomas, 74, told IANS in an interview over the phone from Kottayam in Kerala. “It is a judicial murder committed with the protection of the society.”

According to Thomas, world opinion is turning against the death penalty with more and more countries abolishing it.

“In India too the debate is active among rights activists, judicial circles and civil society,” Thomas said. “But ultimately, it is a political decision.

“If he was against the death sentence, why did he agree to awarding death penalty to the three Rajiv killers — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan?

“Because I took oath to discharge my duties as per the Constitution and the prevailing laws,” replied the former judge. “Whatever extreme may be my individual views, as a judge, I had to function as per the existing laws.

“He said punishment had a three-fold objective: reformation, deterrence and retribution. The rule of retribution — a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye — is increasingly considered uncivilised.

“Then is the case of reformation. If a person is eliminated where is the opportunity for reformation?” he said.

Experience and studies have proved that death punishment have not worked for deterrence too, Thomas said.

He recalled the experience of erstwhile princely states of Cochin and Travancore where death penalty was abolished in 1940 but restored when they became part of the Indian republic in 1950.

Records show that there were a higher number of murders in the 1950s than in the 1940s when there was no capital punishment. “So the theory of deterrence is not valid in many places and periods”, he said.

He said the simple test for death sentence was visualising our own children in the situation. “Our children commit mistakes and we want to reform them through punishments. But do we want to kill them?”

In 1999, the three-member supreme court bench comprising Thomas, Justice D.P. Wadwah and Justice S.S.M .Quadri had awarded death punishment to Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan’s wife Nalini in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Thomas had dissented on death punishment to Nalini while the other two judges were for capital punishment for all four.

Nalini’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment as President Pratibha Patil accepted her mercy petition. The petition was recommended by Rajiv’s wife and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

“I found Nalini was acting like a robot and did not know till the last hour that she was to kill Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on 21st May,1991.” Thomas told IANS about his dissent.

If both Murugan and Nalini were to be killed their child would have been an “orphan made by law “, he added.

With the president rejecting the mercy petition of the trio, they were to be hanged Sept 8 this year. However, the Madras High Court Sept 1 stayed their execution for eight weeks. The Supreme Court will hear a plea to transfer the petition on Oct 19 .

“It was my misfortune to have presided over the bench which gave the death penalty to the four accused. But I had to discharge my duties,” Thomas said about the 1999 verdict.

“The debate over the suitability and ethics of the death sentence is picking up in India,” he said. The Supreme Court had deliberated the issue during the Bachan Singh case in 1983 and directed that death penalty should be awarded only in the ‘rarest of the rare cases’, he recalled.

Thomas, a practising Christian, had courted controversy recently when he said at a function in Kochi that the “smear campaign” that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was “baseless”. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was also present at the function.

An alumnus of the C.M.S. College, Kottayam, he has often criticized Christian educational institutions “indulging in commercial practises” and has suggested that minorities should give up the special rights given by the Constitution.

- indian express (fwd: bg koshy)