The Controversial Practice of Death Penalty in India
The Controversial Practice of Death Penalty in India

The Controversial Practice of Death Penalty in India


Death Penalty is a practiced that is backed by the sanction of the government whereby a person is fastened to death by the state as a punishment for a crime. The decision that someone be punished in this way is called death sentence and the act of carrying this is named as an execution. Death penalty is also known as the Capital punishment.

Crimes that are punishable by death are known as capital offences or capital crimes. Dome of them are:

  • murder,
  • treason,
  • espionage,
  • war crimes,
  • crimes against humanity and


The Practice:

  • Capital punishment has been a matter of great controversy in various countries and states. Its position usually vary within a single political ideology or cultural region.
  • In the European Union, Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits it.
  • The Council of Europe prohibits the use of the death penalty by its all 47 members.
  • The United Nations General Assembly has adopted non-binding resolutions abolish death penalty in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
  • 56 countries retain capital punishment,
  • 103 countries have completely abolished it de jurefor all crimes,
  • 6 have abolished it for ordinary crimes
  • 30 are abolitionist in practice.

Majority of nations have abolished the practice capital punishment but around 60% of the world’s population live in those countries where executions of death sentences do take place, such as

  • China,
  • India,
  • the United States and


Death Penalty and India:

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in India. It has been carried out in 5 instances since 1995, and 22 since independence, while a total of 26 executions have taken place in India since 1991.

Research by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties indicates that the actual number of executions is in fact much higher, as they located records of 1,422 executions in the decade from 1953 to 1963 alone.

According to a report of the Law Commission of India in 1967 in a total number of 1410 cases, the sentence of death in India was executed from 1953 to 1963.

Law Commission in its 262nd report has recommended except crimes other than terrorism related offences and waging war, the death penalty in India be abolished.


Towards Continuation and Abolition of the practice:

  • India voted against a United Nations General Assembly, UNGA resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2007.
  • India again upheld death penalty by voting against the UN General Assembly draft resolution in November 2012 seeking to end the institution of capital punishment globally.
  • On 31 August 2015, the Law Commission of India recommended the abolition of the practice of capital punishment for all crimes in India, excepting the crime of waging war against the nation or for terrorism-related offences and submitted its report to the government.

Mithu vs. State of Punjab 

The Supreme Court in this case struck down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code, which provided for a mandatory death sentence for offenders serving a life sentence.


Clemency in the Indian Constitution:


  • Award of the death sentence by a sessions court
  • The sentence confirmed by a High Court of the State to make it final.
  • The condemned convict has the option of appealing to the Supreme Court.
  • such person can submit a ‘mercy petition’ to the President of India and the Governor of the State if this is not possible, or if the Supreme Court turns down the appeal or refuses to hear the petition.


Constitutional power:

According to Article 72(1) of the Constitution of India the President have the power to grant pardons, respites, reprieves,  or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence in all cases where:

  • the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial;
  • the punishment or sentence is for an offence to which the executive power of the Union extends against any law relating to a matter;
  • the sentence is a sentence of death.


Kehar Singh v. Union of India

The apex court in this case has clearly laid that no person has right to claim mercy under Article 72 of the India Constitution. Such grant is solely on the discretion of the President. Further, as far as judicial review is concerned, it depends heavily on the merits of the case.


Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P

This was the first case dealing with the question of constitutional validity of capital punishment in India. It was contented that it is voilative Article 19 and 21.  The five judge bench upheld the constitutionality of death penalty and held that deprivation of life is constitutionally permissible for being recognised as a permissible punishment by the drafters of our Constitution.


Ediga Anamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh

Justice Krishna Iyer commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment by citing factors like age, gender, socio-economic background and psychic compulsions of the accused. It was laid out in this case that apart from looking into the details of the crime and deciding based on the extent of violence committed the judges should also look into the criminal and his condition or haplessness while committing the crime.


Arguments whether the penalty should be awarded or completely fortified


Death Penalty Fails to Rehabilitate

 The feel “fear of death” will prevent one from committing murder, it is not true because most murders are done on the “heat of passion” when a person cannot think rationally.

Death Penalty Failed as a Deterrent

Publicity may encourage crime instead of preventing it.When an execution is publicized, more murders occur in the day and weeks that follow.

Does not Discourage Crime

It is noted that we need extreme penalty as a deterrent to crime.  It will be great if could be proved that the death penalty discourages murderers and kidnappers.

Convction of the Innocent Occurs

Conviction of the innocent does occur and death makes a miscarriage of justice irrevocable.  .

Fear of Death Does not Reduce Crime. 

The fear of the death penalty has never reduced crime.  Through most of history

executions were public and brutal.



Threat of Death Penalty Rate of Homicide Decreases

Usually, the victim is all forgotten  and high emphasis is placed on the convicted murderer, the one being executed.

Crime Rate Increases

Crime growth has been going up in the past because of too much leniency going hand in hand with the increased rate of people being victimized.  Crime rate has increased drastically as there are many loop holes devised for offenders.

Death Feared

Most people have a natural fear of death- it’s a trait man have to think about what will happen before we act.  If we don’t think about it consciously, we will think about it unconsciously.

Innocent Executed – no Proof

Any proof of an innocent man being executed always lacked!  Opponents claim lots of innocent man are wrongly executed.

 Death Penalty Saves Lives

Repeat murders are eliminated and foreseeable murders are deterred.  You must consider the victim as well as the defendant.




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