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The Death Penalty And Its Effects On Indian Law

The topic of this research paper is the death penalty and how Indian law views it. The accused may face a variety of penalties under Indian law depending on the offence or offences. Among the penalties are the death penalty, life in prison, and other terms of confinement.

The death penalty, sometimes known as the capital punishment, is regarded as the harshest type of punishment. The death penalty may be applied in extremely rare circumstances. The reasons for imposing the death penalty on an accused person are explained in this article. This article also discussed some significant capital case decisions.

General regulations concerning punishment are outlined in Chapter III of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The many forms of punishment that the law administers to criminals or offenders are covered in this chapter. The death penalty, or capital punishment, is the imposition of death on a defendant.

Most horrific crimes are subject to the death penalty, which is imposed by law. Crimes that are carried out in a very barbaric way are considered heinous. Murder, rape, and fighting against the government are a few of the horrible crimes that occur.

King Hammurabi of Babylon instituted the death penalty in the eighteenth: century B.C., outlining the punishment for twenty: five distinct offences. Capital crimes or capital offences are defined as crimes for which the death penalty or capital punishment is applied. The death sentence should be applied for two main reasons: first, to ensure that the offender suffers; and second, to deter future wrongdoers and criminal behavior.

Capital Punishment

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, defines the death penalty under section 54. Without the offender's consent, the competent government may commute a death sentence in any situation where a punishment of this kind has been imposed in favor of any other penalty specified by this article.

The Latin word "Capitalis" which meaning "concerning the head," is the source of the English phrase "capital." Therefore, losing one's head is a consequence of receiving the death penalty. When judges conclude that life in prison is insufficient in a certain case due to specific facts or circumstances, they will impose the death penalty. The word "capital punishment" refers to the harshest kind of penalty.

Capital Punishment In India

In India, the death penalty is permitted under the death penalty. In India, a major offence carries the death penalty. In extremely rare circumstances, the death penalty is applied in India. The death penalty is undoubtedly not a frequent form of punishment in India. An essential component of the criminal justice system in India is the death penalty. In India, the goal of any punishment is to exact retribution on the offender.

In India, 144 capital punishments were carried out in 2021. Given that the reformative theory of punishment has clearly failed horribly in India and that the rate of crime has increased, it is imperative to inculcate in criminals a fear of death in order to enhance the general public's environment.

Death Penalty In Pre And Post Independence Era

It wasn't until 1931 that a member from Bihar named Shri Gaya Prasad Singh attempted to present a bill that would have abolished the death sentence for acts included by the Indian Penal Code that the death penalty was discussed in the British Indian legislative assembly. However, the motion was lost after the home minister at the time responded.

The government's position on the death penalty in British India was made clear by Sir John Thorne, the home minister at the time, during two Legislative Assembly sessions before the country gained independence. "The Government does not think it is wise to remove the death penalty from any crimes for which it is currently legal."

The Doctrine Of "Rarest Of Rare"

The theory says, rather simply, that the death penalty cannot be the rule; it can only be an absolute, exceptional exception. The statute and accompanying acts include no definitions for this notion. The appropriate application of this theory is governed by judicial precedents rather than any specific legal formula.

The court typically uses its perspective to assess the seriousness and brutality of the offence committed when rendering a decision in instances involving the death sentence or capital punishment. The death penalty is only used in situations where the crime is exceptionally serious and its conduct is an uncommon occurrence in society that a prudent person could never imagine. in India, a free nation.

If an accused person is found guilty of a severe crime, the court will apply the "arrest of rare case" theory as a yardstick and grant them the death penalty. Indian laws do not fully defer the death sentence, nor do they uphold its principles consistently.

The "Rarest of Rare Cases" doctrine is further sub: divided into two categories. They are:
  • Mitigating Circumstances:
    The defence council is referred to in law as "mitigating" when it presents the facts of the case in support of the accused and makes a request to avoid imposing the death penalty. Here, the councils attempt to downplay how horrible the crime is while also appealing to compassion by offering prayers for the life of the accused who has been found guilty of the crime. After weighing all the information and using his judicial perspective, the judge attempts to spare the accused of the death penalty.
  • Aggravating Circumstances:
    Under the "Rarest of Rare" doctrine, the victim's side presents the judge with evidence of the heinousness and extreme cruelty of the crime, beseeches justice for the victim, and prays for the accused to be executed if found guilty of the crime. This legal term, "aggravating," takes into account the victim's side of the story. The judge uses his judicial perspective to determine that the death penalty is appropriate in this case in order to provide the victim with justice.
In order to decide whether or not a given case qualifies as an extremely uncommon case, the Apex Court attempted to outline the precise criteria for doing so:
  • Method of commissioning of the murder: If a murder or homicide is carried out with such extreme brutality and heinousness that it is beyond the comprehension of even the most sensible individual, and if the crime becomes an uncommon one in the community, inciting resentment in the community.
  • The Crime deserving hatred in the society: If the crime of the kind where the level of brutality and atrocity is so high that it is not acceptable in society. Even in cases where the victim is a member of a socially disadvantaged class, the murder will still be classified as an extremely unusual occurrence.
  • Intensity of the crime or offence: If the intensity of the crime or offence is much higher than expected, then it will be included within the ambit of this doctrine.
  • Character of the victim of such criminal activity: The criminal act shall be deemed within the parameters of this theory if it is directed against an unprotected woman, an innocent person who cannot be held accountable, or any other individual related to such an individual.

Grounds For Capital Punishment

In the rarest of circumstances, murder carries the death penalty.
It could be given as a penalty for the following offences:
  1. Waging war against the Government of India:
    Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code, established in 1860, serves to define the offense related to Waging, attempting to wage war, or abetting the waging of war against the Government of India. Within this legal provision, a broad spectrum of actions falls under scrutiny, all of which have the potential to incite hostilities against the Indian government. The term "waging war" in this particular context is indicative of a purposeful and well:organized attack on government forces and institutions, aimed at destabilizing or overthrowing the established authority.

    The word "whoever" is deliberately comprehensive, encompassing not only Indian citizens but also foreigners within its scope. This implies that anyone, regardless of their nationality, who engages in or supports activities that pose a threat to the Indian government through waging or attempting to wage war can be held accountable under this section.

    To deter such actions, Section 121 prescribes severe penalties for violators. These penalties may include the most serious consequence, the death penalty, as well as the alternative of life imprisonment. In addition to these harsh sentences, those found guilty can also be subjected to fines. This multifaceted approach aims to safeguard the security and stability of the Indian government and its institutions by imposing strict consequences on individuals who seek to disrupt the nation's governance through acts of war or incitement to war.
  2. Abetting mutiny actually committed:
    Section 132 of the Indian Penal Code (1860) addresses the offense of Abetment of mutiny, with specific reference to mutiny committed by an officer, soldier, sailor, or airman in the Army, Navy, or Air Force of the Government of India. The section outlines the legal consequences for those who aid, assist, or encourage an act of mutiny, leading to the actual occurrence of mutiny.

    This provision imposes significant legal penalties on individuals found guilty of such abetment.

    If mutiny results from their actions, the following penalties may apply:
    1. Death Penalty: The most severe punishment that can be imposed on those found guilty of abetting mutiny, which may result in the offender being sentenced to death.
    2. Imprisonment for Life: An alternative to the death penalty is life imprisonment, where the offender may spend the rest of their life behind bars, with no possibility of release.
    3. Imprisonment of Either Description: In cases where the court deems it appropriate, the offender may receive a term of imprisonment of either description, which can vary in its nature and duration.
    4. Imprisonment for a Term of up to Ten Years: The section allows for imprisonment of up to ten years, indicating that the offender may face a significant period of incarceration as part of their punishment.

    In addition to the imprisonment, individuals convicted of abetting mutiny under Section 132 can also be subjected to a fine, adding a financial penalty to the legal consequences. This section is designed to deter and penalize any involvement in or support for mutinous activities within the armed forces, which pose a grave threat to the discipline and security of military institutions and the stability of the government. It underscores the seriousness with which such offenses are treated within the legal framework of India.
  3. Giving or fabricating false evidence upon which an innocent person suffers death:
    Section 194 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offense of Giving or fabricating false evidence with the intent to secure the conviction of a person for a capital offense. In this context, a capital offense refers to a crime for which the punishment under the law in force in India may include the death penalty. The section outlines the legal consequences for individuals who provide or create false evidence with the intention of causing, or with the knowledge that such actions are likely to result in, the conviction of a person for a capital offense.

    The penalties for such misconduct are as follows:
    1. Imprisonment for Life: Those found guilty of giving or fabricating false evidence with the intent to secure a conviction for a capital offense may face life imprisonment as the most severe punishment. Life imprisonment means the offender can be incarcerated for the remainder of their life without the possibility of release.
    2. Rigorous Imprisonment for up to Ten Years: As an alternative to life imprisonment, the court has the discretion to impose rigorous imprisonment, which is a form of imprisonment involving hard labor, for a period that may extend up to ten years. c. Fine: In addition to imprisonment, the offender can also be fined, imposing a financial penalty as part of their punishment.

    This section underscores the gravity of providing false evidence in cases involving capital offenses, where the potential consequences for the accused are the most severe, including the death penalty. The law is designed to deter false testimonies or fabrications that could lead to the wrongful conviction and execution of innocent individuals.

    The penalties imposed serve to ensure the integrity of the justice system and to hold those who engage in such deceptive practices accountable for their actions. If an innocent person be convicted and executed in consequence of such false evidence, the person who gives such false evidence shall be punished either with death or the punishment hereinbefore described.
  4. Murder:
    This ground stands as one of the foremost justifications for the imposition of capital punishment by the judiciary. The crime of murder is explicitly defined under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (1860), which prescribes the punishment for this grave offense.

    According to this section, an individual who commits murder can face the following penalties:
    1. Death Penalty:
      The most severe punishment that can be imposed upon those found guilty of murder, where the offender may be sentenced to death.
    2. Imprisonment for Life:
      Alternatively, in cases where the court does not award the death penalty, the offender can be sentenced to imprisonment for life, which means the individual may spend the rest of their life behind bars, with no possibility of release.

    In addition to these primary penalties, individuals convicted of murder can also be liable to pay a fine, which adds a financial penalty to their legal consequences. This section underscores the gravity of the crime of murder and the potential for the most severe legal penalties, including capital punishment, depending on the court's judgment. It reflects society's commitment to holding murderers accountable for their actions and ensuring the safety and justice of the broader community.
  5. Dacoity accompanied with murder:
    According to Section 396, Dacoity committed murder. Each of the five or more people who are jointly committed dacoity and commit murder in the process, they will all be punished with either death, [life imprisonment], or rigorous imprisonment for a maximum of ten years, in addition to a fine.
  6. Kidnapping for ransom:
    The Indian Penal Code, 1860, defines it in section 364A, which is as follows. Kidnapping for extortion, etc. Kidnapping, abduction, or holding someone in custody with the intent to harm or kill them, or by acting in a way that raises a reasonable fear that they could be killed, or harming someone in order to force the government, a foreign state, an international intergovernmental organization, or any other individual to do or refrain from doing any act, or to demand payment for a ransom, are all punishable by death, life in prison, or both.
  7. Rape:
    Rape is a really horrible crime. The death sentence is applied to those who inflict harm during a rape that results in death or puts the victim in a "determined vegetative state."
  8. Drug trafficking:
    A person may get the death penalty if found guilty of financing particular kinds and quantities of drugs, commission or attempt to perpetrate, aiding and abetting, or criminal conspiracy to commit any of a number of drug trafficking offences.

A Group Of Offenders Who Are Not Subject To Capital Punishment

  • Minor: In accordance with Indian law, a person who is under the age of 18 at the time of committing a crime is not subject to the death penalty.
  • Pregnant Women: Clemency must be granted to a pregnant woman sentenced to death according to a 2009 amendment.
  • Intellectually Disabled: According to the Indian Penal Code, a person while committing a crime who was mentally ill or is not able to understand the nature of the act or the act is wrong, then that person can be held liable under the law and can be punished with the death penalty.

Constitutional Validity

Everyone's right to life and personal freedom, including the right to live in human dignity, is protected by the Constitution. To maintain law and order, the state has the authority to restrict or even take away someone's ability to life. However, this process needs to follow "due process," as established in the Maneka Gandhi v. Union case in India. A human being's sacred life must be taken in a just, equitable, and reasonable manner.

We can articulate our constitutional principle as follows:
  • Only in rarest of rare cases, the death penalty should be used.
  • Only on special grounds, the death penalty can be sentenced and should be treated as exceptional punishment.
  • The accused shall have the right to hear.
  • In the light of individual circumstances, the sentence should be individualized.
  • The death penalty shall be confirmed by the High Court. Under Article 136 of the Constitution and under Section 379 of the Cr.P.C., there is a right to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • The accused may pray for forgiveness, commutation, etc. of sentence under Sections 433 and 434 of the Cr.P.C. and to the President or the Governors under Articles 72 and 161. Articles 72 and 161 contain, apart from the judicial power, discretionary power for the President and governor to interfere with the merits of the matter; however, there is a limited authority for judicial authorities to review it and it must ensure that the President or the governor has all relevant documents and material before them.
  • However, the essence of the governor's power should not rest on race, religion, caste or political affiliations, but on a rule of law and rational issues.
  • In accordance with Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution, the accused has the right to a prompt and fair trial.
  • The accused is not entitled to be tortured under Article 21 and 22.
  • Under Articles 21 and 19 of the Constitution, the accused has freedom of speech and expression under custody.
  • The accused is entitled to be presented by duly qualified and appointed lawyers.

Procedure Of Execution

Hanging: In India, the death penalty is carried out exclusively via hanging. Godse became the first Indian to be killed by hanging after the country gained its independence. The Indian Supreme Court recommended that only the most exceptional of circumstances should result in the death penalty in India.

Shooting: The death penalty is also enforced in India under the Army Act and Air Force Act. Section 34 of the Air Force Act, 1950 gives the court martial the authority to impose the death penalty for any unlawful act covered by sections 34(a) through (o) of the Act.

In India, the death penalty was primarily carried out via hanging.

  • Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab 1980: Decision, which also mandated the death penalty in certain circumstances. By a majority of 4:1, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in this particular case, but it also established a rule requiring that it only be applied in the most extreme instances. Even though it was determined that the death penalty is an exception and life imprisonment is the rule, the Supreme Court's decision did not define or restrict the use of the phrase 'rarest of rare.'
  • Macchi Singh & others v. State of Punjab 1983: Upheld Bacchan Singh's ruling and stated that the death penalty can only be awarded in the rarest of rare cases when the community's collective conscience is such that it will expect those who hold the judicial authority to impose it. Under these circumstances, the following prerequisites must be satisfied:
    • When the murder is committed in a manner that is particularly gruesome, revolting, or morally dubious in order to elicit a strong and extreme sense of outrage from the community.
    • In the incident of bride burning or dowry death.
    • When the crime is massively proportionate.
    • When the murder victim is an innocent child, a vulnerable woman, or a person rendered helpless due to advanced age or illness.
  • Jagmohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh 1973: The death penalty was first challenged on the grounds that it violated a person's right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, an important fundamental freedom. The five:judge bench of the Apex Court issued its ruling, stating that the death penalty is constitutionally valid and does not violate any of the Articles of the Constitution. It also found that the choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment was made after taking into account all the pertinent facts and the nature of the crime as they were presented during the trial.

Recent Judgment:
  1. Manoj v. state of Madhya Pradesh 2022
    The Court ruled that the death penalty only applies when the alternative opinion is unquestionably forfeited and that the Bacchan Singh principles must be applied to each specific case in light of its circumstances. The Court in this case listed various guidelines for a better assessment of the parameters and scope of rehabilitation. Mitigating factors in the case must be considered at the trial stage. The trial court must obtain information for it from the accused as well as the state.

    Other pertinent factors, such as illnesses or unstable behavior, should be taken into account according to the circumstances of each case. This information must be provided to the court at the time of sentencing, and the accused should have the opportunity to present a defense and any mitigating circumstances.
  2. Manoj Pratap Singh v. State of Rajasthan 2022
    In this case, the death penalty imposed on a 37:year:old man for the rape and killing of an autistic girl aged seven and a half was upheld by the Supreme Court. The crime was committed in Rajasthan in 2013 when Manoj Pratap Singh, the accused, was about 28 years old. A three:judge bench stated that the crime had been committed with extreme depravity, especially in light of the victim's vulnerability and the manner in which it was committed.

    The convict kidnapped the victim on a stolen motorcycle, taking advantage of the trust gained through the offer of confectionary items. She was then sexually assaulted and had her head smashed, suffering multiple injuries, including a fracture of the frontal bone. The victim also had severe injuries on the private parts. The accused argued that the crime was committed when he was only 28 years old.

The Supreme Court opined that there appears to be no chance of his reformation and rehabilitation because these mitigating factors are weighed against a number of other factors pertaining to his antecedents .The Court noted that the accused had a criminal history and had been involved in at least 4 cases involving theft, the destruction of public property, and attempted murder. Further, a stolen motorcycle was used in the commission of the current crime.

The Court also noted that the convict had already been found guilty of murdering another inmate and had received a seven:day sentence for fighting with another prisoner. The Court even went so far as to say that the convict was a "danger to the maintenance of order in the society" after taking all of these factors into account.

According to the Court, the alternative of giving the convict a life sentence for the rest of their natural life without commutation was also impractical in light of the incorrigible conduct of the accused. The Bench stated that because it was inevitable in this particular case, it had "no choice but to confirm the death sentence awarded to the appellant.

Finally, to conclude it I would like to state that I have investigated the death penalty and its foundation in this study article. The death penalty is an extremely harsh type of punishment that is only applied very seldom. In India, the death sentence has been applied for ages.

While it is true that a criminal must pay for his actions, society as a whole must work to eradicate crimes that are not crimes. The death penalty should be abolished because it is an outdated and barbaric idea that includes killing people, which is wrong as life is valuable and death cannot be undone.

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