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Capital Punishments in India

 Capital Punishment is also known as a death penalty, execution of an offender sentenced to death

after conviction of a criminal offence by a court of law. Indian Criminal justice system is one of

the important parts of capital punishment.

Evolution of Capital Punishment in India

India retained the 1861 Penal Code at independence in 1947, which provided for the death

penalty for murder. The idea of abolishing the death penalty expressed by several members of

the Constituent Assembly during the drafting of the Indian Constitution between 1947 and 1949,

but no such provision was incorporated in the Constitution. In the next two decades, to abolish

the death penalty, private members bills were introduced in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,

but none of them were adopted. It was estimated that between 1950 and 1980, there were 3000 to

4000 executions. It is more difficult to measure the number of people sentenced to death and

executed between 1980 and the mid-1990s. It is estimated that two or three people were hanged

annually. In the 1980 Bachan Singh judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty

should only be used in the “rarest of rare” cases, but it is not clear what defines the rarest of the


Position in India

India opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty because it goes

against the Indian statutory legislation as well as against each country’s sovereign right to

establish its own legal system.

In India, it is awarded for the most serious of crimes. It is awarded for heinousness and grievous

crimes. Article 21 says that no person shall be deprived of ‘right to life’ which is promised to

every citizen in India. In India, various offences such as criminal conspiracy, murder, war against

the government, abetment of mutiny, dacoity with murder, and anti-terrorism are punishable with

death sentences under Indian Penal Code (IPC). The president has the power to grant mercy in a

case of death penalty. Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, the Court held that capital punishment

will only be given in rarest of rare cases

Only the president has the power to confer mercy in cases related to death sentences. Once a

convict has been sentenced to death in a case by the Sessions Court, it must be confirmed by the

High Court. If the appeal to the Supreme Court made by the convict fails then he may submit a

‘mercy petition’ to the President of India. Detailed instructions on the procedure are to be

followed by States to deal with petitions for mercy from or on behalf of death-sentenced

convicts. Appeals to the Supreme Court and requests for special leave to appeal to that court by

such convicts shall be set out by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Under Article 72 of the

Constitution of India, the President has the power to grant pardon, reprieves, respites or

remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or reduce the sentence of any person who has

been convicted of an offence.

What are the execution methods followed in India?

There are two methods of execution in India and they are:

• Hanging

All the death penalties in India are carried out by hanging. After independence, Godse was the

first person to be executed in India by the death penalty in the case of Mahatma Gandhi. India’s

Supreme Court suggested the death penalty should only be imposed on the rarest of rare cases in



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