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Pope Francis Holds Special Jubilee Mass for Prisoners in St. Peter’s Basilica, urges Political Leaders across the world to respect Dignity of Inmates

Francis held a special Jubilee Mass Sunday for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica

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Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass for the Jubilee of inmates, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Nov. 6, 2016. VOA

November 7, 2016: Pope Francis urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible.

Francis held a special Jubilee Mass Sunday for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer,” Francis said in his homily.

Francis called for “a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society.”

“I wish to reiterate the importance to reflect on the need for a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society,” he said. “In a special way, I submit to the consideration of the competent civilian authorities in every country the opportunity to make, in this Holy Year of Mercy, an act of clemency towards those prisoners who will be considered eligible to benefit from this measure.”

The pope told the inmates that all people “have made mistakes” and urged them to never give up hope in God’s mercy.

The event was part of the Vatican’s Holy Year of Mercy, which comes to an end later this month, and was followed by Francis’ traditional Sunday “Angelus” blessing in St. Peter’s Square, where tens of thousands of worshippers had gathered, despite the morning rain.

Francis has called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty and also opposes life in prison without parole.

The pontiff declared 2016 a special “Holy Year of Mercy” because he wants the Church’s 1.2 billion members to be more merciful and less rigid towards sinners during this holy year, also known as a Jubilee.

Roman Catholic holy years usually occur every 25 years, the last one being in 2000, but popes may call extraordinary ones to draw attention to particular issues or momentous events. (VOA)

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Goodbye Holy Smoke, Vatican City bans Sale of Cigarettes

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking.

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The faithful gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. VOA

Vatican City, November 10, 2017 : Pope Francis has ordered a ban on the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican from next year because of health concerns, a spokesman said on Thursday.

“The motive is very simple: the Holy See cannot be cooperating with a practice that is clearly harming the health of people,” spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.

He cited World World Health Organization (WHO) statistics that smoking causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year.

Cigarettes have been sold at a discounted price to Vatican employees and pensioners.

Vatican employees are allowed to buy five cartons of cigarettes a month. Many Italians ask their non-smoking friends who work in the Vatican to buy cigarettes for them because they cost much less than in Italy, where they are subject to heavy taxes.

Burke acknowledged that the sale of cigarettes has been a source of revenue for the Holy See, adding, “However, no profit can be legitimate if it is costing people their lives.”

The spokesman said the sale of large cigars would continue at least for the time being because the smoke is not inhaled.

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking. Bhutan, where smoking is deemed bad for one’s karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. (VOA)

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Bengali Film ‘Dhananjoy’ Sparks a Fresh Debate on the Social Dilemma of Capital Punishment

Arindam Sil's 'Dhananjoy' revolves around the capital punishment of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard

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Arindam Sil's Bengali film 'Dhananjoy. Facebook
  • ‘Dhananjoy’ is a Bengali film directed by Arindam Sil
  • The film premiered theatres on August 11, 2017
  • Talking about capital punishments and death penalty, the movie has sparked a new debate on the social issue

August 19, 2017: Arindam Sil’s new direction, titled ‘Dhananjoy’ hit the screens on 11th August. The Bengali film since its release has sparked a fresh debate on the social dilemma of capital punishment.

Capital punishment by no means is a simple debate topic. The United Nations Organization has passed various resolutions urging governments of various nations to abolish the legality of the death penalty, however, these resolutions have been non-binding.

Also Read: Why the society needs capital punishment

There are 56 nations that hold death penalty legal. In fact, 60% of the global population resides in countries where the death penalty is held valid. Some of these nations are India, US, China, Indonesia among more.

Arindam Sil’s ‘Dhananjoy’ revolves around the capital punishment of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard. The film comes at the time of the 13th anniversary of his hanging.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed by the state on 14th August 2004 for the rape and murder of a young girl, Hetal Parekh, in a residential complex. Aged 39, Dhananjoy was mercilessly punished leaving behind old parents, a wife and a brother.

The Bengali film has run along the lines of the 2016 published book, ‘Adalat-Media-Samaj Ebong Dhananjoyer Fansi’. The book portrays that Dhananjoy may have been wrongly committed the crimes he did not do. It was Hetal’s mother who was the culprit and got away. Dhananjoy was a scapegoat.

Sil shows in the movie that it was unfair for Dhananjoy if the judiciary or police in any way would have caused an unintentional error. Dhanonjoy spent 14 years in the prison, during which he kept claiming that he was innocent. He also kept saying that he was tired of being poor. Dhananjoy had little money, and his poverty was the reason behind him being put as the scapegoat. His lawyers with the little fees had lost interest in the case.

This theory by Sil clearly raised debates regarding the fairness of capital punishment and death penalty. The film Dhananjoy is sure to raise dinner table debates with family after watching the movie.

William Douglas, American Supreme Court Judge, once said: “Capital Punishment was for those without the capital.”

The United Nations conducted a survey in the year 1988. From the responses, they concluded that the fact “death penalty is more of a deterrent than life imprisonment” is absolutely baseless. Furthermore, the statistics extracted from countries who abolished the practice supports the conclusion of the survey.

If capital punishment is not abolished, the risk that an innocent could be hanged and killed lurks in the environment. Judiciary systems are not perfect systems.

In India, the judiciary is in worse conditions. With the lack of personnel, pending cases and archaic laws coupled with caste and communal hierarchic setup, capital punishment should be much researched in the country.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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Tough Anti-Hijacking Law comes into Force in India

The historic 1982 law has been replaced by a stricter 2016 anti-hijacking law which permits trial for death penalty

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The 2016 Anti-Hijacking Law has now been enforced in India. Wikimedia
  • India has just reformed its anti-hijacking legislation which introduces death penalty
  • The old law of 1982 has been substituted for the 2016 anti-hijacking law 
  • The new law has now come into force which prescribes capital punishment under certain scenarios 

July 07, 2017: India has taken a strict and firm step to substitute its old vintage law designed in 1982 to a more impactful and stringent 2016 anti-hijacking law. The new law introduces and validated capital punishment in the event of the death of any person.

Previously, according to the 1982 formulated law, capital punishment could only be raised in the event of the death of a hostage which included flight crew, passengers, and security personal.

The new law has widened its definition to a broad category of the death of any hostage, including security personnel on board and ground staff members as well. In other cases, the guilty can potentially be punished for life imprisonment and fined, combined with the confiscation of movable and immovable property held.

Also Read: Fake Caste Certificates Invalid for Employment, says Supreme Court

The law also includes numerous acts in the definition of hijacking, such as making a threat, attempts, and abetment to commit the offense.

The law which comes into force 5th July 2017 onwards also adds that organizing or invoking someone directly to carry out hijacking will also be included in the offense under the new law.

The central government is to have the power of investigation, arrests, and prosecution. The stricter and reformed bill comes after Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi introduced a bill in Rajya Sabha to repeal the 1982 Anti-Hijacking Act in 2014. The new bill was passed on 4th May 2016 by the Upper House.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394