June 19, 2024
capital punishment

By Simran Joshi

The author is a 3rd-semester law student at Amity Law School Lucknow

Wikimedia Commons

Capital punishment or the penalty of death is the highest punishment rewarded to an individual for a crime under any penal code of a country. It is we can say a legal way or procedure to take away someone’s life, not unnecessarily but for the crime, he commits. the death penalty roots from the British Era when the executions were at their peak with the Indians serving the majority. At that time Indians specially were not provided with legal aid and hence no justice was served. Although the death penalty has always been the hot topic of discussion and various controversies but could never be abolished, it has only brought some amendments with time, that’s it. After 1947, India became a democratic state, and the system of awarding death penalties too changed drastically .


The Indian penal code in accordance with the provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India provided for awarding of capital punishment for certain specific offenses. Section 54 of the Indian Penal Code states the commutation of the sentence of death which says that in every case in which sentence of death shall have been passed, the appropriate government may, without the consent of the offender, commute the punishment for any other punishment provided by this code. Although Article 21 which guarantees the citizen the fundamental right to Life too limits itself to the procedure established by law. Under no circumstances any citizen’s right to life will be violated or can say that their life will be taken but the state can take away this right only and only by the procedure of law as it may seem legitimate. Today around 405 prisoners are on death row in India and 752 have already been executed.


There are different methods of execution in different countries but Hanging is the most common method used.

In India, the most widely used method is Hanging and then also Shooting.

HANGING -Hanging is prevalent since medieval times. Hanging is execution by strangling or breaking the neck by a suspended noose . In India as per the current position of law, capital punishment is awarded in the Rarest of the Rare cases and the primary mode of execution as given under section 354 [5]of the CRPC1973 is hanging by neck till death .nevertheless, with the advancement of technology and medicine, countries are moving towards other methods of execution such as lethal injections, electrocution, lethal gas, and firing squad.

SHOOTING – The other method of execution is shooting which is provided under the Army Act, The Navy Act, and The Airforce Act. Section 34 of the Air Force Act, 1950 empowers the court-martial to impose the death sentence either by the mode of hanging or by being shot at the discretion of the court-martial.

An Example Case

In Bachan Singh V State of Punjab, May 1980, a five-judge bench of the supreme court of India while upholding the constitutionality of the death penalty in India, also laid down an elaborate sentencing framework, requiring sentencing judges to impose the punishment only in the rarest of the rare cases. The Rarest of the Rare doctrine developed in the Bachan Singh requires judges to balance the aggravating and migrating circumstances while determining whether a death sentence is an appropriate punishment.


Although the capital punishment is a very controversial topic and  debates and discussion goes on frequently, while some may oppose it but the majority of public opinion favors imposition of the death penalty in case of anti-social or socially detested nature of the crime


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