Reflections on the Death Penalty
1. Thank you, Professor Rajkumar! And thank you Professor Deborah for your kind words and very generous praise!
2. The distinction of delivering his lecture has fallen to me, and I take it up to me with some degree of trepidation because Professor Roger Hood’s work is a magnum opus in terms of its academic learning. He is still a living spirit. His work and his words speak to us eloquently and insistently, and I will have an occasion to refer to some of these in the course of my remarks today.
3. The title which I have chosen today is ‘Reflections on the Death Penalty’, an issue which was close to Professor Roger Hood's heart.
4. We meet today on the International Day of Peace. In 1981 when the United Nations first resolved to recognise this day, it affirmed as follows:
“…since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. That a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting, and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.’
5. It is fitting then, that on this day we celebrate a jurist of the eminence of Roger Hood, whose life's work teaches us the limits of penal laws in deterring violence and in bringing peace to society. Most crimes are first committed in the minds of men, and it is there that we must fight them.
6. I've encountered Professor Hood’s work several times in my career, most commonly in preparation for cases involving a death sentence. I returned to his articles and books while researching for this lecture, reading whatever I could from the vast selection that makes up his academic corpus. I was instantly astounded by his clarity of thought, the strength of his arguments, and the simplicity of his writing. Above all, I was moved by the deep sense of empathy that resonates beneath his words. There is no judgement in his writing, no narcissism, no sense of superiority that one might find in the works of those who receive global acclaim. Instead, one is met with the humble quest for the truth, an honest effort to understand the criminal mind, and to find the right answers to problems that plague the criminal justice system.
7. His work is not abstract or conceptual. It is real and relatable. It seeks to address actual problems faced everyday by all in society, especially those who interact with the criminal courts. This is perhaps best illustrated by a study he undertook with two others in 2005 on the experience of ethnic minorities in the criminal courts of England. The monograph discussing results of the study noted, and I quote:
“It is a fundamental tenet of justice in modern democratic societies, that all persons are to be treated fairly, with equal respect, and not be subject to any form of adverse discrimination, whether direct or indirect. But it is no less fundamental that people should not feel discriminated against for perceptions maybe as significant as any objective evidence of discriminatory treatment in affecting their confidence and trust in public institutions, and their belief that they have been treated as full citizens on an equal basis with other citizens. In almost no other area of public life is the perception of discrimination more damaging than in the field of criminal justice…”
8. With the objective of a fair hearing in mind, the study proceeded to question defendants, witnesses, judges, and counsel on their perceptions of unfairness and bias, recognising achievements, and suggesting improvements where necessary. The real-world impact of research of this kind cannot be overestimated. It helps us to create a better justice system that works equally for each of us. His work and inspiring scholarship has left footprints in India.
9. Roger Hood’s interactively therapeutic approach in prisons and institutions is reflected in others’ later research experiments. For instance, Stephen Fisher, who co-authored ‘An Analysis of Mindfulness Use’ in the United States remarked:
“In recent decades there has been a surge of scientific interest in mindfulness. The quality of awareness that emerges from purposefully, and non-judgmentally, paying attention to the present moment, with an attitude of openness, acceptance, and curiosity. The research in the field has generally been limited by poor research methodologies, and small sample sizes, but the evidence to date suggests that mindfulness-based practices and programmes can be effective for chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. The proliferation of research on mindfulness-based interventions has coincided with efforts to integrate mindfulness-based practices and programmes into a range of institutional settings, including the workplace, the military, the criminal justice system…”
10. Professor Hood is of course best known for his work on the death penalty. He could masterfully interweave law, philosophy and humanism. One learned passage reads thus:
“Cesare Beccaria’s famous treatise ‘On Crimes and Punishments’, published in 1764, advocated the replacement of this old regime of maximum terror randomly inflicted by a graded system of penalties proportionate to the crime, and inflicted with greater certainty. Capital punishment, Beccaria declared, was both inhumane and ineffective: an unacceptable weapon for a modern enlightened state to employ, and less effective than the certainty of imprisonment.
Furthermore, he argued that it was counterproductive if the purpose of law was to impart a moral conception of the duties of citizens to each other. For, if the state were to resort to killing in order to enforce its will, it would legitimise the very behaviour which the law sought to repress, namely the use of deadly force to settle disputes.
It was recognised that death was a disproportionate punishment for crimes less serious than murder, for such a system drew no moral distinction between these crimes and murder, and provided no incentive for an offender to choose not to murder, but to commit instead a lesser crime which would not be visited by death. For instance, if robbers were to be deterred from murder, the penalty for robbery should be less than that for murder.
As mentioned above, juries had become reluctant to send people to their deaths for property offences. Thus, from a utilitarian standpoint, to threaten capital punishment that would only be rarely and haphazardly inflicted, was bound to be a less effective deterrent than a more certain and proportionate judgement that was recognised as legitimate by citizens in general, and therefore more likely to be enforced.”
11. Death has been a form of punishment in human society for all of recorded history. It finds mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi written in 1750 BCE. Today a plaintiff who fails to prove his case is asked to pay the defendants costs. In ancient Babylon, he would be sentenced to death, as with those who stole temple property, cattle, or slaves. The death penalty finds sanction in many scriptures, in the Torah, in the Old Testament, and the Quran.
12. In India, Manu wrote that a person who persistently brought false and frivolous claims before the King was to be put to death. Death was also the necessary consequence of many of the ordeals proposed by Katyayana as means of determining the truth of a charge. From Charles I in 1649, to Saddam Hussein in 2006, even heads of state have not escaped capital punishment.
13. One may note the death penalty was reintroduced in Mussolini's fascist regime in 1927. And in Germany, it was expounded beyond all recognition by the Nazis where it was to be transformed from an instrument of penal policy into a tool of racial and political engineering – not merely a matter of retribution but also of eugenics policy.
14. Death remains a punishment for two distinct reasons. Keepers of the law justify it by arguing that it acts as a deterrent. The fear of death is in all of us. Frightened by the very possibility of execution, it is believed we will choose not to commit a heinous crime.
15. The death penalty also serves a more articulated, but suspect purpose – retribution. It answers a deep desire in a large part of society for revenge. When a crime shocks the collective conscience of society, imprisonment simply isn't enough. In many there is little distinction between revenge and justice, the impulse for both comes naturally, making it difficult to counter by reason alone.
16. One would be wrong to believe that this yearning for retributive justice is a thing of the past; one we last saw centuries ago when mobs cheered as the French aristocracy marched to the guillotine. Its survival is perhaps best illustrated by a day in 2017, when an entire courtroom erupted in thunderous applause at the awarding of the death sentence.
17. In this regard we should note the words of Justice Bhagwati, who said in his famous dissent in Bachan Singh's case, and I quote:
“The common justification which has been put forward on behalf of the protagonists in support of capital punishment is that it acts as a deterrent against potential murderers. This is, to my mind, a myth which has been carefully nurtured by a society, which is actuated not so much by logic or reason as by a sense of retribution. It is really the belief in retributive justice that makes the death penalty attractive, but those supporting it are not inclined to confess to their instinct for retribution… [t]hey try to bolster with reasons their unwillingness to abandon this retributive instinct and seek to justify the death penalty by attributing to it a deterrent effect.” [Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1982) 3 SCC 24]
18. Richard Evans correctly observes, and I quote:
“Fundamentally the most powerful and persistent motive for execution has always been retribution, the belief that death can be the only adequate expiation for certain crimes, the feeling that lesser punishments are insufficient, the conviction that those who commit the most serious offences must pay for them by suffering the ultimate penalty – death.”
19. John Rawls supplies the following concise account, and I quote again:
“What we may call the retributive view is that punishment is justified on the grounds that wrongdoing merits punishment. It is morally fitting that a person who does wrong should suffer in proportion to his wrongdoing, that a criminal should be punished follows from his guilt, and the severity of the appropriate punishment depends on the depravity of his act. The state of affairs when a wrongdoer suffers punishment is morally better than the state of affairs where he does not, and it is better irrespective of any of the consequences of punishing him.”
20. The common denominator of other retributivist accounts is to locate the justification of punishment in relation to a past offence or wrongdoing. Another approach is to explain retributivism by recourse to a cluster of moral concepts: rights, desert, merit, moral responsibility, and justice.
21. The theories of Immanuel Kant and Hegel exert the greatest historical influence on retributivism. Kant articulates the essential retributivist thesis: punishment must always be inflicted on an offender only because he has committed a crime. Punishment’s consequences must not be the source of its justification because this would disrespect the offender by treating the offender as a mere means whose punishment is meant to benefit society. And even if no good consequence may be extracted from it, punishment is a categorical imperative, or absolute duty.
22. If retributivism “is the notion that there is a mystic bond between wrong and punishment”, Hegel’s account supplies retribution as the logical bond. Hegel explains that both crime and punishment are coercive, which, in the abstract, is “contrary to right”. Because crime precedes punishment, crime is the initial coercion, and thus the first wrong, whereas punishment is merely (in the abstract) the second wrong, but because punishment follows crime, and “coercion is cancelled by coercion; [punishment] is therefore not only conditionally right, but necessary, namely as a second coercion which cancels an initial coercion”. Since crime is a negation of the right, and punishment negates crime, punishment is in Hegel’s famous phrase, “the negation of the negation”, that is rather than two wrongs) restore the right.
23. There can of course be other reasons for which the death penalty exists. As Stuart Banner has put it:
“the primary purpose of capital punishment was the emphatic display of power, a reminder of what the state could do to those who broke its laws… The link between cause and effect, between the commission of the crime and the imposition of death sentence was made as conspicuous as it could be.”
24. The argument that the death penalty deters crimes like murder, any more than a punishment of life imprisonment, was questioned by Justice Bhagwati. It was, however, contested most famously by Professor Hood himself, who perceptively remarked, and I quote:
“Many protagonists of abolish and believe that death penalty is a fundamental violation of the human right to life. In a sense, that it is an extreme form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. For such persons, any discussion of its effectiveness as a deterrent is irrelevant.
But it has to be recognised that not everyone regards this ‘human rights’ view as valid, especially outside Europe, and the European hegemony. Indeed, many people appear to believe that (at least some) criminals who violate the right to life of others by murdering them, deserve to lose their own right to life, and they parade horrifying and brutal cases in support of their contention. But usually, this approach is supported by a belief that the death penalty, and execution in particular, is necessary to protect others from a similar fate. In some countries this argument is used to justify capital punishment for other crimes, which can inflict grave, personal, or socially injurious harms, such as the sale of narcotics, sexual offences against children, and even some very large scale cases of corruption and embezzlement. Sometimes, capital punishment is said to be sanctioned by religious authority, and sometimes by deeply embedded cultural norms or ‘mindsets’...”
25. In a passage that is also quoted by Professor Raj Kumar in a chapter he co-wrote with Ahmed Bindal, Professor Hood says:
“[T]he issue is not whether the [death penalty] deters some people, but whether when all the circumstances surrounding the use of capital punishment are taken into account, it is a more effective deterrent than the alternative sanction – most usually imprisonment for life or very long indeterminate periods of confinement… econometric analyses have not provided evidence from which it would be prudent to infer that capital punishment has any marginally greater deterrent effect than alternative penalties… It is futile therefore for such states to retain the death penalty on the grounds that it is justified as a deterrent measure of unique effectiveness.”
26. Similarly, arguments in favour of retributive justice can also be contested. Instructed by past experiences, we understand that all life is precious, life ought to be protected at all costs, and no authority of law can justifiably sanction it being taken away. In the words of Justice Krishna Iyer, there is now “a world order, voicing the word of the human person, a cultural legacy charged with compassion, and interpretative liberation from colonial callousness to life and liberty and the concern for social justice.”
[Rajendra Prasad v. State of U.P., (1979) 3 SCC 646]
27. The inimitable Lord Chris Patten spoke truly, and I quote:
“The inhumane, unnecessary and irreversible character of capital punishment, no matter how cruel the crime committed by the offender… That stance is rooted in our belief, in the inherent dignity of all human beings, and the inviolability of the human person… it is impossible to reduce the risk to zero of applying the penalty in error.”
28. Similarly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared that:
“The death penalty has no legitimate place in the penal systems of modern civilised societies, and its application may well be compared with torture, and be seen as inhuman and degrading punishment.”
29. Many countries have abolished the death penalty for this reason. Professor Hood refers to this as the “new dynamic”, one that recognises capital punishment, as a denial of the universal human right to life and to freedom from torture, and cruel and inhuman punishment.
30. There would seem, therefore, no viable reason to retain the death penalty. The justification of deterrence has been shown to be false, and modern judicial systems cannot support any theory of retributive justice.
31. There remains, however, a more difficult question to be answered. One that Professor Hood himself grappled with for many years: can public opinion in favour of the death penalty be a reason for retaining it?
32. Public opinion might favour the death penalty for a variety of reasons, including that it acts as a deterrent or that it offers retribution. In reality, public opinion may be shaped by a combination of both these factors. For many, it is important to teach the perpetrators of a heinous crime a lesson, and equally important to warn others that might tread the same path that they will suffer the same fate.
33. Many nations justify retaining the death penalty on the grounds that it has public support. Countries that oppose the UN General Assembly's Resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment, said in a Note to the Secretary General that the issue was one to be “determined by each state, taking fully into account the sentiments of its own people.”
34. Professor Hood's own analysis of the subject was driven by data. Reviewing surveys from several countries that retained the death penalty, he found that the people in many of them had no interest in the death penalty at all. Further, when some people were informed that the death penalty had no deterrent effect, their views on its retention changed. For example, in Singapore when 92% of those surveyed were in favour of the death penalty because they believed it had a uniquely deterrent effect, only 57% said they would still favour retaining the penalty if it was proved that it had no greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. In other jurisdictions, public opinion changed when people were told that a possible alternative to capital punishment was life imprisonment without parole.
35. He added:
“Taken together, the findings of these surveys of public opinion conducted in eight retentionist countries do not support the claim of the governments that support for retention of the death penalty is so strong that it acts as a barrier to its abolition. Nor do the findings support the claim that attitudes towards capital punishment are so variable between states, depending on unique cultural and social influences, that governments are justified in regarding the question of capital punishment as a matter solely to be determined by considerations of the needs of its criminal justice policy after “taking fully into account the sentiments of its own people”, rather than an issue to be determined by adherence to international human rights norms.”
36. Professor Hood concluded that public opinion should not be employed as a justification for maintaining a cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment. His conclusion was based on empirical evidence. I propose to consider the issue from the lens of our Constitution – one that guards against majoritarianism, but nonetheless recognises popular consensus. In doing so, we should also bear in mind that the Preamble to the Constitution speaks of justice. This is a point which has serious implications if one looked at Professor Hood's approach.
37. Many argue that although public opinion is to be respected, it cannot be decisive. The issue should be determined by political leaders and judges who can exercise judgement based on an informed and rational appreciation of the case for abolition, judged in the light of contemporary human rights standards. Thus, in State v. Makwanyane, even though the South African Constitutional Court accepted that the majority of South Africans were in favour of the death penalty in extreme cases of murder, it held it to be unconstitutional. The court said that:
“Public opinion may have some relevance to the enquiry, but in itself, it is no substitute for the duty wasted in the courts to interpret the Constitution and to uphold its provisions without fear or favour. If public opinion were to be decisive, there would be no need for constitutional adjudication.”
[S v. Makwanyane and Anr. (CCT 3/94),  ZACC 3 ]
38. Many would also agree with the view of William Schabas, who said that to make human rights guarantees “contingent on public opinion, one of the very forces it is aimed at counteracting or neutralising” would “contradict the raison d'être of human rights law”.
39. It is in this context one reads about the journey in Canada from Kindler to Burns, between upholding the penalty and taking the view that it could violate the Charter. Similarly, one respects the many opinions in the American Supreme Court. Many opinions taking the view that capital punishment would be violative of the 8th Amendment.
40. In India, capital punishment was recognised in Article 72 when the Constitution was first enacted. The President is empowered to grant pardons in all cases involving a sentence of death. Similarly, Article 134 provides that an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court against a judgement in a criminal case if a High Court has an appeal reversed in order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death. And in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has upheld its validity, albeit with the condition that it be awarded only in “the rarest of rare cases, when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed”.
41. Thus, any public support for the death penalty in India cannot be equated to opinions favouring other trespassers on life and liberty. In India, Schabas’ warning would apply if, hypothetically, the public favoured a complete abrogation of rights for all religious minorities. Any such abrogation would be impermissible on grounds that it violated the Basic Structure. Consequently, elected officials would be right to ignore the people's views. But the will of the people in favour of something that is recognised by the Constitution, and has been found to be constitutional, cannot be so easily dismissed.
42. Let us consider the case of a democratic country that does not recognise that as a form of punishment. Several heinous crimes are committed within a short time span – terrorist attacks, rape and murder. The highest sentence the perpetrators can receive is imprisonment for life. But suppose the public doesn't accept this. Society is in a collective state of anguish. Protests began throughout the country, demanding capital punishment for the most serious offences. Can the people's elected representatives simply ignore these demands? Would they not be failing in their duty to the electorate?
43. These are difficult questions. I doubt it can be said that they have a single right answer. What is clear, however, is that public opinion cannot always be dismissed, especially in a country like India where capital punishment is constitutional. It is the duty of the elected to give due weight to the views of the electors. Anything less may strike at the heart of democratic values.
44. But, in some sense, this debate is purely theoretical. There is currently no comprehensive data to show which way the Indian people would lean on the issue of capital punishment. Support for the death penalty that one often sees in the media may not accurately reflect public opinion on the issue. It might well be the case that Indians can approach issues of punishment with a greater degree of compassion than we anticipate.
45. However, if future research were to conclusively demonstrate that a majority of the Indian people supported capital punishment for the most serious crimes, it could be difficult for legislators to simply set aside their views. Indeed, they may only do so if it is shown that capital punishment is unconstitutional based on factors that were not before the court in Bachan Singh or on the grounds that Bachan Singh itself needs to be reconsidered. In all other cases, elected representatives may find it difficult to ignore views of the majority that are not in conflict with the Constitution.
46. I must note here that some data concerning the state of death penalty in India is now being recorded in Project 39A’s Annual Statistics. For the year 2019, “[t]rial courts in India imposed 102 death sentences, which was a significant drop from 162 death sentences in 2018.”
47. Project 39A’s study of the figure shows that “sexual offences played a significant role in determining outcomes in those cases, as the proportion of death sentences imposed for murders involving sexual offences was at the highest in four years at 52.94%.” They observe that the year 2019 “was also the year of the highest number of confirmations by the High Courts in 4 years, with the majority in offences of murder involving sexual offences at 65.38%.”
48. Anup Surendranath, in his masterly report on the death penalty, begins with a small but moving inscription. And the inscription is worth a quotation:
“In the hope that their voices will end our collective silence.”
49. In his Introduction, he writes:
“Questions concerning access to legal representation and its quality are just as integral to understanding the mechanics of the death penalty in India. Much of the discussion on this issue has centred around the proportion of legal aid lawyers being used in capital cases. While our research shows that the use of legal aid lawyers is certainly not as high as we might believe it to be, focussing only on the inadequacies of the legal aid system may lead to an inaccurate portrayal of the crisis with legal representation of prisoners sentenced to death. The question to ask is not really about the proportion of legal aid or private lawyers and the emphasis must be on a more general qualitative evaluation of the legal services accessed by prisoners sentenced to death. As the chapter on legal assistance in Volume 1 demonstrates, there are serious concerns with the standard of legal representation across the board, irrespective of whether it is legal aid or private legal services. It is evident that the ability to spend a hefty amount in engaging one's lawyer has a significant impact on the nature of legal services the prisoners were able to access. In that sense, the fact that the majority of the prisoners had private lawyers in the trial court and the High Court did not in any way ensure that they had access to quality legal representation.”
50. The report perceptively remarks:
“Although there were instances of positive opinions of private and legal aid lawyers, they were outnumbered by narratives of absence during court proceedings, lack of interaction with prisoners and their families, repeated demands for money and dereliction of duties as a defence lawyer. It is important to emphasise here that the prisoners and their families rarely based these evaluations on the outcome of the case. Instead, they focussed on the manner in which the lawyers treated them and the extreme forms of alienation from the legal process inflicted upon them.”
51. These views were foretold by Justice Ginsburg, a legend of hope, courage, truth, and justice. She said at a lecture at the University of the District of Columbia, and I quote:
“I've yet to see a death case among the dozen coming to the Supreme Court on eve of executions day applications, in which the defendant was well represented at trial. People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty.”
52. As I noted earlier, the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh held that death penalty should be awarded only in “the rarest of rare cases, when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed”. There is only one problem with this view – it still grants wide discretionary powers to judges. And as several studies have found, this discretion is not always exercised in a consistent fashion. One said study, which examined over 700 reported decisions delivered between 1950 and 2006, concluded that whether an accused was sentenced to death could sometimes be termed an arbitrary decision, since it depended on a number of unpredictable variables. Other studies have concluded that the reasons for the confirmation or commutation of death sentences in India have defied coherent analysis.
53. This is not a new phenomenon. Justice Bhagwati himself recognised the issue in Bachan Singh, finding that on “an analysis of decisions given over a period of years we find in fact that there is no uniform pattern of judicial behaviour in the imposition of death penalty and the judicial practice does not disclose any coherent guidelines for the award of capital punishment.” He noted that judges tended to award the death penalty in accordance with their own social philosophy and scale of values, adding that while some judges were inclined to sustain a death sentence, others were similarly disinclined.
54. It must be stated that the array of sentencing mistakes vary, and the large variation is itself a grant to question the retention of the death penalty. Further, informed social choices based on intersectional research must be debated. More collectively, society must be responsible for the evils of poverty and vulnerability, the eradication of caste and class, and the inverse relationship between law and poverty.
55. Additionally, we must be instructed by the words of Barack Obama, who termed capital punishment “deeply troubling.” He had this to say in the pages of the Harvard Law Review in 2017, about the stakes involved in the project of criminal justice reform:
“Those privileged to serve as President and in senior roles in the executive branch have an obligation to use that influence to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the justice system at all phases. How we treat citizens who make mistakes (even serious mistakes), pay their debt to society, and deserve a second chance reflects who we are as a people and reveals a lot about our character and commitment to our founding principles.”
56. I again return to Roger Hood's words:
“It is necessary, therefore, to approach the question of capital punishment from both normative (moral) and utilitarian points of view, and always in relation to how it is applied in practice. In essence, therefore, the case for retaining the death penalty—and thus resisting the movement to make its abolition an international norm—cannot rest solely on moral, cultural, or religious arguments. It would also have to be shown that it is useful and that it can be applied fairly, without mistakes, and without any degree of arbitrariness or cruelty unacceptable to contemporary social and legal values. There is, as this book makes clear, sufficient evidence to indict capital punishment for failing the test of humanity on all these grounds.”
57. When one reads the works of Professor Roger Hood, one sees what a great legal philosopher, thinker, and humanist this great scholar is. The way he analyses the various shades of grey in the matter of the award of the death penalty take him very close to the extraordinary manner in which a philosopher at Oxford, Timothy Endicott, writes about logic, particularly in his great book on vagueness. Professor Roger Hood’s work must have been deeply influenced by the philosophy of reason – the very sense of reason, but also by questions of degree and by vagueness!
58. And it is very interesting to notice that Professor Hood begins with society – and advocates for a society which takes responsibility for those who are both its victims, and those who are perpetrators. He looks through this prism of society and the positions of each one of actor in the justice delivery process. His work will always bear on the work of Indian scholars who work on the issue of the death penalty in an evolving, dynamic, and a fast-changing society.
59. In India, there is scope for greater research, greater engagement of the public mind, greater involvement of civil society. Together, we should look at all forms of punishment as also rehabilitative processes. The possibilities of rehabilitation are so wonderfully latent in the writings of Professor Roger Hood. He truly is a great inspiration! His affirmation of life, his tracing of the genealogy and the importance of the human life from the time we had the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights up to the ICCPR in 1966, the subtle changes which happened thereafter, and the way in which finally, the call was taken about the position relating to the death penalty are extremely powerful and instructive.
60. In India, we are committed to international norms. We are a society which welcomes new thoughts, new ideas. We have an ancient civilisation, and we also have a Constitution, which is a living tree, which is a living source of inspiration, and a living source of guidance. In my view, the requirement today is of securing justice in the true sense of the word, having regard to vulnerability, poverty, as well as caste and class.
61. To conclude my remarks today, I pay my tribute to Professor Roger Hood!
62. I thank the Vice Chancellor, Professor Raj Kumar for his very thoughtful institution of the Roger Hood Memorial Lecture, being an illustrious alumnus of the University of Oxford and the University of Delhi, and also being one of the celebrated students of Professor Roger Hood. One of the things which Professor Raj Kumar has been able to demonstrate in his academic career is that inspiration is more than half of industry, and inspiration fuels industry.
63. Actually, the word ‘brilliance’ is made quite irrelevant here. What matters is inspiration and how we act upon that inspiration. That is why while I empathise with Kathy’s poignant tribute to her father, I say to her that for all of us in India, Professor Roger Hood will live on!
64. His spirit is alive, and his words are replete with meaning and possibility. In his works, we meet a discerning sociologist, a discerning psychologist, a discerning philosopher, a discerning jurist – he is all of them rolled into one!
65. But how could a person be all of these rolled into one?
66. I think you can see some hint of how that could happen from both what Professor Raj Kumar said, and what Kathy has shared with us: Professor Hood was extremely humble, extremely self-effacing and extremely open to scrutiny, to curiosity, to learning. We must know by Sir Roger Hood’s personal life and example, and enshrine for the future that learning never pauses. Learning never stops. It continues, perhaps until the time of death, and who knows, even thereafter.
Thank you so much.