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Death Penalty And Moralty: Indian Context

The issue against the moral state gained momentum and changed a topic of discussion ever since. The need was known as early as 441 BC. and has not been found so far solution. There is a play called "Antigone" written by the famous Greek writer Sophocles in 441 BC. It rose several issues such as how much the state can control the lives of its citizens, moral rights v. the law of the land and must we always obey the laws of the land?

The dictionary definition of morality is a principle that distinguishes between right and wrong or good or bad behavior. Several philosophers had their own interpretation of morality which always are mutually exclusive. The 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham said: "Morality is do whatever maximizes utility or happiness." The correct way to do individually or categorically is maximize overall happiness.

The utilitarianism of Jinx of Bentham lies in the quote "The greatest Good for the highest amount." There is a play called "Antigone" written by the famous Greek writer Sophocles in 441 BC. It rose several issues such as how much the state can control the lives of its citizens, moral rights v. the law of the land and must we always obey the laws of the land?

What Is Capital Punishment Or Death Penalty

The term "capital" comes from the Latin word "capitalis" which means attached to the head. Thus, to be subjected to capital punishment is to lose one's head.

Capital punishment, also known as capital punishment, is the execution of a criminal who has been sentenced to death by a court for a serious crime. This is known as the most severe form of punishment. It is a punishment for the most heinous, grievous, and abhorrent crimes against humanity. Although the definition and scope of such crimes varies from country to country, state to state, and age to age, the death penalty has always been a consequence of such crimes.

Principles of Capital Punishment
The criminal justice system all over the world is based on three principles:
  • Retributive
  • Rehabilitation
  • Deterrent


Theory of punishment, or "theory of revenge" as many people in society would understand it, is the most basic but poorly conceived theory of criminal punishment for a criminal. It is based on a very small doctrine, namely the doctrine of Lex talionis, which translates as "an eye for an eye". Now in the light of very serious and horrific crimes like the Delhi rape case, people may feel that it is better to impose such retributive punishments to ensure deterrence in the entire society to prevent such crimes in the near future.

The concept of retributive justice has been used in many different ways, but it is best understood as a form of justice committed to the following three principles:
  1. That the perpetrators of certain types of illegal acts, paradigmatically serious crimes, deserve a morally acceptable punishment;
  2. That it is intrinsically morally good — good without reference to other possible goods — that some legal punisher should give them the punishment they deserve;
  3. That it is morally forbidden to deliberately punish the innocent or to impose disproportionately large punishments on criminals.

Retributive punishments are somewhat vindictive in nature (an eye for an eye). They may not always be vindictive, but perhaps just morally vindictive. When we say this, it means that even though the punishment is not literally what the criminal did in the first place, it still serves as retribution because of its severity.

For example: If someone rapes someone, the death penalty can be imposed as revenge. If we literally gave back to a man what he did, sex, it would be pleasure for him rather than torture.


The deterrent theory of punishment is of utilitarian nature i.e. the right course of action that will give happiness to maximum number of people. In deterrence theory, the concept of punishment "DETER" means refraining from any illegal activity. The main purpose of this theory is to "deter" (prevent) criminals from attempting any crime or repeating the same crime in the future.

Thus, it is said that the purpose is to prevent crime by instilling fear; to show or set an example to individuals or society by punishing the criminal. It simply means that according to this theory, if someone commits a crime and is punished with severe punishment, the result may be that people in the society are aware of severe punishments for certain types of crimes. because of crimes and fear of people in this society people can stop any crime or illegal act.

Here I used "can stop" instead of "stop". It means that there is a possibility of committing any crime or repeating the same crime. General deterrence is one of the ideas behind the death penalty. It is claimed that it establishes an example, that there is a need in society to impose the death penalty or severe punishment on people who committed heinous or rarer crimes. It deters potential criminals by punishing them criminals of the past

According to J. Bentham, who is known as the founder of that theory, a hedonistic concept of man and the fact that a man as such would be removed from crime if the punishment were swift, certain, and severe.

Therefore, deterrence theorists believed that if the punishment is severe, certain and swift, then a reasonable person will measure the benefit or harm before committing the crime, and as a result, the person will be deterred or stopped from breaking the law if the harm is greater than what he or she will gain.


The principle of rehabilitation treats crimes like diseases and treats them scientifically and psychologically solutions. As many other methods of punishment are punitive, rehabilitation is fundamentally therapeutic. This the mission is to eliminate the criminals of the disease so that society can be changed for the better to live They also reduce crime rates by treating criminals so they come back they can give something productive to society in return.

Therefore, instead of taking criminals' ideals of revenge help them become better citizens. As it is It is considered the most humane and progressive form of punishment and is also the most difficult to achieve.

According to this hypothesis, the goal of discipline should be to change the cheater through an individual strategy. It depends on the humanist rule that regardless of whether a criminal commits a crime, he does not cease to be a human being. In this way, he must try to change him during his arrest. For example, he may have misbehaved in circumstances that may never happen again.

Therefore, efforts must be made to convert him during his imprisonment. The purpose of the agreement should be to effect a moral separation between the responsible parties. He should be talked to during imprisonment and he should do handicrafts or professional work, so that he has a chance to start a new life after leaving prison.

Thoughts Of Libertarians

Libertarians believe that most of the time the right way is to let people do what they want, while the theory of John Locke states that there are inalienable rights that belong to each person according to "natural law" and the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant challenged all these opinions.

In contrast to the utilitarian, Kant argues that the goal of morality is freedom, not happiness; against Libertarians, Kant denied that freedom is simply doing what you want and emphasized that responsibilities that come with freedom; and against Locke he argued that morality, duty, and rights are based on a person's mind, social behavior, surrounding environment and circumstances but not in natural law.

They believe that the government must justify any policy that limits individual freedom. Since the death penalty is the most severe limitation of freedom that the state can impose on an individual, the state must be able to justify it particularly convincingly. This burden becomes even greater when we realize that the consequences of the death penalty extend beyond the executed person. The government must spend significant resources every time it tries to execute one of its own citizens, which ultimately affects every taxpayer.

Is Death Penalty Morally, Right?

As we are mostly aware of what the death penalty is and why it is imposed, it is also noteworthy to know that according to the Indian Penal Code, the death penalty is imposed for treason, murder, perjury leading to the conviction and death of an innocent person, sedition, kidnapping for ransom and murder.

But despite this provision in the statute book, the Law Commission of India and the Supreme Court are skeptical about its application. As in August 2014. The Law Commission of India called for a review of the application of the death penalty and asked for public opinion, but the death penalty has not benefited and there are certain perceptions and doubts about it. But even the nation's highest court recognizes that sometimes the death penalty is imposed arbitrarily, inconsistently, and erroneously.

Proponents of the death penalty also say that once a murderer is executed, he cannot kill others. But if his sentence is reduced to life, he could threaten the lives of others or kill someone himself in prison. It is also called "incapacitated", but that clause was in place at a time when there was no modern prison for long prison terms, and has no valid basis today.

Even the practical applicability of the death penalty can be questioned for several reasons, e.g., to like:
  • A better option instead of death penalty is life without parole:
    • Although the Indian legal system provides for death penalty in "rarest of the rare" cases and even those are so before criticism, they can accept this option of life without parole Several US states have also adopted the same.
  • The death penalty endangers innocent lives:
    • It is a crystal-clear fact that anything a study claims is not guaranteed to be true and therefore involves great danger in lying to the innocent.
  • Race and place of the person determines who lives and who dies:
    • Like rich and poor in India, white and blacks in America. Those who have access one system dominates and overwhelms the other.
  • Price to pay for the death penalty system in India:
    • The recent case of Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist whose arrest and near-execution the government spent two million euros. Now imagine a country like India where poor people live die of hunger and lack of basic needs, spend so much on criminals' worth it?
  • Poor quality protection condemns many to death:
    • We risk the life of the accused in the hands of the assistants and their skills. If he succeeds, the life of the accused is spared but if he fails then the accused is executed which is indisputable unreasonable

How Much Control The State Posses Over The Life Of The Others?

When we studied social exchange theory in political science, that in order to avoid conflicts and power problems in society, we combined our rights with authority and relied on them. We believed and still believe that they exist to protect us and our rights against others.28 Even today "we choose them, we form and make them", so how do they have the right to take someone's life? This question has been raised by those who oppose the death penalty and rather proceed from moral reasons linked to natural law.

But in today's scenario where crimes are increasing day by day and people are dying like flies and insects, it is not commendable for the state to take strict measures and come up with strict laws to curb it.

But what about an "extravaganza" where the innocent is executed on behalf of the accused? How does the government or country curb this situation? Are the claimed or expected benefits of the death penalty greater or does it absolve the state of these obligations? Is it right for the state to avoid the mistakes the name of greater goods and a better future?

Proponents of the death penalty must consider the duty of the state to punish the accused and not the innocent, where it sometimes fails and ends the life of an innocent and ruins the lives of other members of his family. Many give a counterargument to the above questions that the state must take care of the wider goals and interests of society, here I raise the question, are the unjustly accused not part of society? Doesn't the state have a duty to them or their families?

After a deep analysis and reading of all issues related to death penalty in India, one can conclude that "death penalty should be abolished in India". The same main reason is that the Indian legal system does not ensure that only the accused are executed, no innocent It has a serious flaw of endangering innocent lives.

There is also a political power game that influences every judgment and, in some cases, leads to prejudice and injustice. Condemning the death penalty is not only a punishment, but it is the duty of the state and citizens to see that deviants are severely punished and that others do not do so to save themselves. But in the context of India, where credibility is lacking and a pathetic legal procedure is followed, risking someone's life is a wrong decision.

The term "labelling theory" also applies here, which says that if society defines someone as deviant or stigmatized because of some unproven fact or unconfirmed crime, they will never accept him as a sane or valuable person in society. Even if a person is released after being declared innocent, people do not accept him and this undermines their social status and makes their life still miserable.

Sometimes when a person is seen as a criminal even though he has done nothing wrong, he is prone to crime and sometimes it is because of this factor that "one goes on a crime trip and thus witnesses the wrong name".

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