The news of Salahuddin Ayubi’s (the ATM thief that was tortured in police custody) family forgiving the policemen that carried out the crime could not have come at a worse time considering questions of crimes against society are already under consideration. Just four days ago, the Supreme Court announced that cases of terrorism would be non-compoundable – punishments could no longer be waived off if victims forgave those convicted. The reason for this is that beyond the victims and their family, such crimes have an adverse effect on society as a whole. Can anyone argue that the murder of a mentally ill suspect at the hands of those sworn to protect citizens is any better?

Murderers not being charged because they have been ‘pardoned’ is tantamount to denied justice; the policemen tortured a suspect until he succumbed to death. They did not even care whether he was mentally ill or not. Police brutality, insensitivity to mental illness and treating suspects in custody with impunity are just the surface level reasons for a crime of this sort to be non-compoundable.

Those charged with protecting the lives of citizens are misusing their power and brutalising members of the public; how is this in any way a forgivable offence by members of one victim’s family? That a government official willingly negotiated two projects for gas and roads to be built in villages in return only tells us that some in the state believe that public service is something citizens are privileged to receive, not something they are entitled to – a completely false understanding of the entire governance mechanism.

Add this to the obvious fact that only those from poorer sections of society are normally pressured into pardoning culprits, compoundable punishments in cases of murder and other serious crimes results in both the denial of justice and for a lack of deterrence for crimes committed by the influential. A skewed system where the wealthy and powerful are treated differently than others is not one that is just. This medieval concept of crime, punishment and ‘forgiveness’ needs to be done away with in entirety.

In any case, the country’s justice system has already made cases of terrorism and honour killings non-compoundable crimes; why should murder be treated any differently? This patchwork implementation of legal principles must come to an end; all serious crimes need to be established as non-compoundable, so that there is no disparity between rice and poor offenders and those that harm society, albeit through different means. Justice must be equal for everyone.