In India, the standard for the death penalty is that it is issued only in cases called "the rarest of the rare" because of their egregious brutality. But the Supreme Court has shown a disturbing double standard toward Hindu and Muslim extremists -- granting leniency in the brutal killing of a Christian missionary by Hindu fanatics, and supporting death for a Muslim fanatic who attacked the parliament. So which one is a more textbook example of terrorism -- attacking a symbol of the state, or killing a civilian? And which one is more brutal -- shooting people down in a dastardly surprise attack, or imprisoning a father and his two sons in a van and watching them burn to death?
Here's India's brilliant Open magazine -- a new entrant to the country's vibrant media scene:
Detailing the crime and upholding Singh’s conviction, the Court observed: “All the ocular witnesses have testified that after setting fire to vehicles and burning Graham Staines and his two sons alive, the miscreants raised slogans ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ and ‘Dara Singh Zindabad’.” It also took note of the fact that Staines and his sons tried to escape the burning van. The mob prevented them, and a father and his two children watched each other burn alive. Those who had set them on fire showed no mercy. The Court ruled that murder was committed; it upheld Dara Singh’s conviction, yet stopped short of ruling that the dastardly triple murder qualifies as a ‘rarest of rare case’.
Earlier, the court had written that this was not the "rarest of rare" because Singh had been enraged by Staines' missionary work, and went on to criticize religious conversion, generally.
It said: “Whether a case falls within the ‘rarest of rare case’ or not, has to be examined with reference to the facts and circumstances of each case, and the Court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances and conclude whether there was something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for death sentence. In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities…” On 25 January, the two-judge bench of the court, comprising Justices P Sathasivam and Dr BS Chauhan, expunged the remarks it had made relating to conversion activities. The Court observed that the expunged remarks could be misinterpreted and so they were modified.
But now that the explanation is gone, it's clear that there were no other grounds for commuting Singh's sentence.