Author- Lekshmi Ramesh


 Crimes and Punishments are the words which we come across almost every single day. Everyday a new crime takes place around the world. Therefore, we all are familiar with the word crime. Black’s law Dictionary refers crime as “an act that the law makes punishable; the breach of a legal duty treated as the subject matter of a criminal proceeding”[1] .Therefore there must be penalty for the wrongdoings. The capital punishment is the maximum punishment which could be given to a person. However, the capital punishment is the most relevant topic for debate. There are criticizers and advocates of capital punishment. Capital punishment is an integral part of the Indian Criminal Judiciary.[2]Death penalty also known as capital punishment is the implementation of death sentence an offender sentenced to death after conviction of a criminal offence by a court of law.[3]


                             Capital punishments has been used as a mode of punishment since the earliest societies. Records says that even the most primitive tribes utilised the method of  capital punishments.[4]

            The origin of capital punishment or death penalty can be traced backed to eighteenth century BC in the code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. The history of capital punishment can also be traced back to the Draconion Code in Athens, which made the death penalty compulsory for all the types of crimes committed. The hanging became the customary method of execution in Britan only in the 10th century AD. Subsequently, during the reign of William, it became illegal to hang people except during the wars. Slowly, Britan started refraining from the passing of death sentence.[5] 

        Over the passage of time, it was proved that the countries with countries with no death penalty have a lesser number of murder taking place in comparison to countries prescribing death sentence. There are a lot of criticism with regard to death penalty saying that it is cruel illegal and inhumane. Now a lot of countries have gave up the punishment of death penalty. As per the statistics published by the United Nations, more than 150 countries abolished the practice of death penalty[6].


                           Today around 102 countries have abolished the practice of capital punishment. However the practice of death sentence is still hotly debated around the globe.[7] The critics of the capital punishment argued that if a man taking another mans life is punishable by law, how can the state give a punishment where in the convict’s life is again taken by another man on the orders from the state.[8]Moreover the capital punishments has not proved to decrease the crime rate. The UN General assembly urges for a fair trial which is to be followed by each and every country. The procedure to be followed must be fair reasonable and just.[9] As per the 6th Protocol of European Convention on human rights 1982, there is complete abolision of death sentence in peacetime by all the members.[10]

                           At the year end of 2014 almost 98 countries were abolished the death sentence as a punishment. Now only a small number of countries are practicing death sentence[11]


                              India retained the Indian Penal Code even after the independence. Several members of the constituent assembly  put forth the idea of abolishing the capital punishment between 1947 and 1949, but no such provisions were incorporated in the constitution.[12]

                        Article 21 of the Indian constitution dictates that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”[13].  The two methods of death penalty in India are hanging and shooting. As  per the Code of Criminal Procedure hanging is the method of execution in the civilian court system. However the Army Act lists hanging as well as shooting as official methods of execution in the military court martial system. As per the study conducted by the national law university in Delhi 755 people have been hanged in the Independent India[14].

                 A detailed perusal into the debates in British India’s Legislative Assembly reveals that no issue were raised about the capital punishment in the assembly till 1931[15]. It was when one of the members from Bihar, Shri Gaya Prasad Singh sought to introduce a bill to abolish the punishment of death for the offences under the Indian Penal Code, the debate started.  The motion was however negatived after the home minister replied to the motion[16].

                   The crimes which are punishable with death in India include aggravated murder, other offences resulting in death terrorism related crime rape treason and many more. The judgement given the case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab[17]  plays a crucial role in deciding whether a crime deserves death sentence or not. A supreme Court order dated february 2012 ruled the provision as unconstitutional in the light of judgement in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab as well as Mittu Singh v. State of Punjab[18]. Therefore, the offence punishable by death sentences are given only when they meet “rarest of rare”  standards as laid out in Bachan Singhs case.[19]


               A number of countries has abolished the punishment of death penalty saying that it is inhumane and violates the right to life of a person. However, the idea of capital punishments was effective in reducing criminal offences to an extent. Speaking about the right to life, it is not an absolute right. The right is subjected to reasonable restrictions. In my opinion capital punishment is necessary for some heinous offences which is been committed by the offender after reviewing all the possible facts and circumstances. However the issue of capital punishment is still debatable.






[6] Ibid.


[8] ibid


[10] ibid



[13] Article 21



[16] ibid

[17] AIR 1980 SC 898

[18] (1983) 2 SCC 277


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