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Capital Punishment In India: History, Debate And Its Future

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has long been a feature of mortal society and has been used in India since the colonial era. Throughout history, it has been a hotly contested issue. It involves the deliberate execution of individuals who have been convicted of severe crimes. The term 'capital' is derived from the Latin word 'capitalis," which means concerning the heads.

Most societies have historically used the death penalty, and states have also carried out punitive executions for a wide variety of offences, including those motivated by political or religious convictions or practises, circumstances beyond a person's control, or in the absence of meaningful due process safeguards.

But now, capital punishment has been abolished in most countries. As of the end of 2022, 53 countries retain capital punishment; 111 countries have fully abolished it de jure for all crimes; seven have abolished it for ordinary crimes (while maintaining it for special circumstances such as war crimes); and 24 are abolitionists in practice.

Although the majority of nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world's population lives in countries where the death penalty is retained, such as China, India, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The death penalty is a contentious issue, and numerous people and organisations have spoken out against it, arguing that it is unethical and in violation of mortal rights. Amnesty International declares that the death penalty breaches human rights, stating "the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

These rights are defended under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, espoused by the United Nations in 1948. In the European Union (EU), Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits the use of capital punishment. The United Nations General Assembly has espoused, throughout the years from 2007 to 2020, eight non-binding resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view to their eventual abolition.

Capital punishment has its roots in prehistoric societies. It was put into place to create social order and address serious crimes. The execution strategy has occasionally changed. It has been first used by The Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which enshrined the death penalty for 25 separate offences, dates back to the eighteenth century B.C., when the first documented death penalty regulations were initially put into place.

Aside from the Hittite Code, which dates back to the fourteenth century B.C., the Draconian Code of Athens, which established death as the only punishment for all crimes in the seventh century B.C., and the Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets, which dates back to the fifth century B.C. all included the death penalty. As means of execution, people have been crucified, drowned, beaten to death, burned alive, and impaled.

Hanging was the most common method of execution in Britain by the ninth century A.D. William the Conqueror prohibited executions by hanging or other cruel methods throughout the century that followed, with the exception of times of war. As many as 72,000 persons are thought to have been put to death during Henry VIII's rule in the sixteenth century, ending this tendency.

During that time, some of the most common methods of execution included boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, impalement, and drawing and quartering. Executions were carried out for serious crimes such as marrying a Jew, denying committing a crime, and treason.

Even Britain abandoned the death punishment over time. Crime rates are lower in nations without the death penalty than in those that do. The idea that the death sentence is an inhumane, brutal, and extremely degrading punishment is becoming more widely accepted on a global scale. It fails to provide public safety or prevent violent crimes and is dangerous as a whole. As per the statistics given by the United Nations, the death penalty has been no longer used or is abolished in more than 150 nations.

Capital Punishment in India

Since the colonial era, the death sentence has been used as a form of punishment to punish offenders. It used to be governed in the most severe and terrible circumstances. Based on an amalgamation of deterrent and reformative theories of punishment, Indian criminal law holds that the purpose of punishment is to both in-still fear in criminals and provide them with the chance to change. In India, there are a variety of views on the death penalty, with some being in favour and others opposed.

The Indian Constitution guarantees everyone's fundamental right to life, subject to being deprived of it in accordance with the procedure of law. It has been argued by abolitionists that the sentence of death in its present form violates the citizen's right to life.

In addition, Article 14 of the Constitution stipulates that everyone is entitled to "equality before the law and equal protection of the laws," which means that discrimination against anybody is prohibited unless it is necessary to achieve equality.The preamble to the constitution contains a reference to the idea of equality that is included in Art. 14. It appears that a death sentence is in direct opposition to a person's right to life. It cannot be questioned though, that the Indian Constitution does not expressly forbid the death sentence.

According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, "Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with procedure established by law." It was stated that no one was allowed to commit suicide unless they followed the legal process. There are still some significant crimes in India that incur the death penalty. The Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is valid in India and should be followed in only "rarest of rare cases". And also said that it does not violate the Constitution.

One of the most well-known death sentence cases is Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1980 SC 898. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty's constitutional legitimacy as an alternative to the life sentence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC). The court ruled that Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution were not violated by Section 302. The apex court also laid down the doctrine of "rarest of the rare cases" in awarding the death penalty. For those convicted of murder, life imprisonment is the rule, and a death sentence is an exception.

The case Machi Singh v. State of Punjab, 1983 AIR SC 957, plays a significant role in the legal system's consideration of the death penalty. The court also tried to determine whether the crime fell into the category of the "Rarest of the Rare'' cases.The Supreme Court held that "the rarest of rare dictum serves as a guideline in enforcing Section 354(3) and establishes the policy that life imprisonment is the rule and death punishment is an exception" in its conclusion." Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code mandates the death penalty for any criminals serving life terms.

In India, there has been much discussion about whether the death penalty should be retained or abolished. For the first time in India, the Law Commission discussed the death penalty in their 35th Law Commission Report, which concluded that the death penalty must be retained in India.

For the first time in India's history, the Law Commission's report addresses the death penalty which is used in India only very seldomly and is constitutionally acceptable. The only punishment that may make criminals fearful and deter them from committing horrible crimes in a nation like India, where crime rates are rising daily, is the death sentence.

In India's history, there has been debate over the elimination of the death penalty. Many political parties support it, while others are opposed. Others contend that doing away with the death sentence would only serve to encourage criminal activity in a nation like India, where crime rates are already high.

The Law Commission's 262nd report, "The Death Penalty," which addresses the issue, calls for the country to abolish the death penalty overall, with some exceptions for those who are found guilty of waging war against the nation and participating in terrorism. However, according to the 35th Law Commission report on the death penalty, India must keep this practice.

Even a nation like India, where there are several laws in place to prevent crime, but despite these regulations, crime rates are rising because of the deplorable nature of the punishment meted out for committing crimes. India has recently seen a surge in rape and murder cases, yet we already have life sentences for these crimes, which is absurd.People are forced to obey the law and orders if there is a death sentence.

Crime will decrease and people will be vigilant of wrongdoing if a nation has the death sentence. The public will receive justice and develop faith in the law if the accused get punished liable for their terrible crime. India, the nation with the most cases, must adhere to the death sentence in all circumstances. In the rarest of circumstances, the death sentence is therefore more compassionate than life in prison.

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