I hear on the news that David Headley has pleaded guilty on all the 12 charges against him. He did so after being assured that he would not be given the death penalty, nor would he be extradited to India. So what happens next? I suppose he will get a sentence for 186 years or some such thing. The US attorney general has said - "not only has the criminal justice system achieved a guilty plea in this case, but David Headley is now providing us valuable intelligence about terrorist activities. As this case demonstrates, we must continue to use every tool available to defeat terrorism both at home and abroad."
OK, I see the point. But I cant ignore the irony that such confessions have to be bargained and negotiated for, against a promise of deferring the death sentence. I am not debating on whether death penalty should exist or not. That's a separate debate altogether. I am distressed by the thought - doesn't this give the convict an escape route?
It is yet another debatable issue that if Headley had actually been extradited to India, would he have been convicted (and convicted quickly enough) to be punished. Going by the way Kasab's trial is progressing, Headley would have probably spent several years shuttling between court and custody. So - does this trial solve anything? As far as healing the wounds of 26/11 victims, no punishment to either Kasab or Headley will ever be enough. The scars are permanent. Which brings me to a question that has bothered me for years.
What is the purpose of a punishment? I am thinking of different options and just checking if the Headley case has achieved any.
To undo the wrongdoing that the convict had done upon the victim? - No. I doubt if that can be achieved in this case, going by the enormity of his crimes.
To reform a criminal and get him back to become a good citizen? VERY unlikely in this case. Don't forget that Headley has already spent two years in US prison in 1998 when he was arrested for drug-trafficking. So the punishment appears to have done nothing to reform him. If at all, it just made him an even more dangerous person.
To serve as a warning for others who might be plotting a similar heinous act? I would hardly imagine that to happen. If potential assasins were going to worry about being hanged, no assasination would have taken place in India after Nathuram Godse was hanged.
I am still searching for the answer. what is the purpose of a punishment?