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Critical Analysis of Capital Punishment in India

 Critical Analysis of Capital Punishment in India

By Shweta Nair


When a person commits a wrong, punishment is usually inflicted upon him. Be it any wrong, he is punished in order to suffer for his wrongdoing and for others to get discouraged for committing a similar wrong. The same thing goes with capital punishment.

Since the ancient times, capital punishment has always been practiced in some form or the other. It has always been there. Cutting off head, chopping hands or any parts of the body, guillotining, throwing off a person from a high cliff etc. But as we progressed through centuries and centuries, people’s opinion regarding it started changing. Some of them are not in favour of capital punishment on ground of human rights as it is violative of basic fundamental rights of human beings while some are in favour of it as they believe that wrongdoers must be paid back by similar wrong upon them, only then they will understand what pain the victim had to go through and others will never dare to repeat the offence.

What is Capital Punishment? 

Capital Punishment is also interchangeably called as Death Penalty which means subjecting the accused or the wrongdoer to death sentence after convicting him for a crime committed. It is a type of punishment which is to be awarded only for the most heinous and grave offence however, it is to be remembered that this definition and understanding of the term may vary in other countries or states. 

The CrPC also went through several amendments with regard to the notion of death penalty. It was lastly amended in 1973 where it was stated that death penalty was to be awarded only in the rarest or the rare cases that in case of the most grievous offences which is immoral and unacceptable in a society and Life Imprisonment was made the norm.

The Law Commission also published three reports on capital punishment. Under which the first report suggested to retain the punishment and that the subjective discretion of the court is satisfactory in such cases while the second report didn’t mention anything specific about abolition of death penalty and it was only the 262nd report of the Law Commission in the year 2015 observed that capital punishment does not help in the penological objective of deterrence any more than life imprisonment and therefore it fails to achieve any constitutional validity.

Few Crimes where punishment by death sentence can be given includes aggravated murder, rape, terrorism, treason which includes waging war against the government and kidnapping. 

In Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India, certain guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court of India regarding death sentence being converted to a life sentence. Similarly, in Union of India vs Sriharan, the Rajiv Gandhi killers were not sentenced to death and in turn their death sentence was reduced to life sentence. 

Even in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, the only dissenting statement by Justice Bhagwati was that death penalty is capricious, discriminatory and arbitrary. Articles 14 and 16 are violated.

A prisoner is also a human being after all. Though he has done a wrong which can’t be forgiven or let gone like that, death penalty is certainly too much cruel to be subjected to a person. It has severe physical as well as mental effects on the prisoner especially when in a country like India where a criminal has to wait for several years to undergo death penalty and execution like the Dhananjay Chatterjee’s case. There comes a stage where death penalty is begged by the criminal as he lives in constant juggle between fear and hope for many years. World over many countries have opted to abolish capital punishment as it is almost a judicial murder especially in the case of an innocent person who dies by hanging of the neck. Though in India, it is still practiced, yet the intensity of awarding capital punishments has declined to a great extent.

 God has given us life and only God has the power to take it away from us and not the state. 


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