Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it
to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.
Death sentence is a process where a crime so grievous has been committed that
the state condemns the act by sentencing the convicted to death. It is only
applied in the cases where the crime is of such a nature that it cannot be
vitiated without a penalty of death. It can be defined as the lawful infliction
of death as a punishment for a wrongful act. Death sentence for heinous crime
means giving death sentence for those types of crime which is done in inhuman
manner and which are considered as rarest of rare cases.
By comparing death sentence in India with other countries we found that in many
countries it is abolished because they consider that this practice is grossly
inconsistent with human rights requirements. Countries like UK, France
completely abolish the death sentence. Countries like US and North korea use
this punishment in extraordinary situations or a kind of heinous crime. China is
the one of the most active country in giving death sentence.
In Iran and Saudi
Arabia, the number of executions is also very high. Globally, of the 195 UN
states 55 countries retain capital punishment, 106 countries have completely
abolished it de jure for all crimes, 7 have abolished it for ordinary crimes
(while maintaining it for special circumstances such as war crimes), and 28 are
abolitionist in practice.
India is a country which consist a large number of crime and criminals. There
are two main reason for giving punishment, firstly: the wrongdoer should suffer,
and secondly: imposing punishment to the wrongdoer to discourage others from
doing the offence. There are different kind of punishment in India for different
offences like capital punishment, imprisonment, life imprisonment,
imprisonment with fine, fine etc. Capital punishment is one of the important
part of Indian criminal justice system.
In the year 1956, 1958 and 1962 a bill was introduced in house of parliament to
abolish death sentence from India. It was passed from one of the house but was
pending in other house of the parliament and was not passed. This signifies the
intention of parliament on desirability of capital punishment. A few members
were in the favour of abolition of death sentence but remaining members were in
favour of retention of death sentence. Now recently capital punishment was
incorporated in Indian Penal Code 1860, through an amendment under section 376A
Laws related to Death Sentence:
What is Death Penalty?
The Death Penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the
state as a punishment for a crime. It is also known as the capital punishment,
hand till death, death sentence etc. Death sentence is given to a person in
consideration of any heinous offence committed by the person.
In India, capital punishment is awarded for murder, gang robbery with murder,
abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the
government, and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. It is also
given under some anti-terror laws for those convicted for terrorist activities.
The death sentence is imposed only when the court comes to the conclusion that
life imprisonment is inadequate based on the facts and circumstances of the
case. The Law Commission of India released a report in 2015 recommending that
the country move toward abolishing the death penalty, except in terrorism cases
to safeguard national security.
Currently, judges in India can impose the death penalty in the rarest of rare
cases, including treason, mutiny, murder, abetment of suicide, and kidnapping
for ransom. In 2013, an amendment to the law permitted death as a punishment in
cases where rape was fatal or left the victim in a persistent vegetative state,
as well as for certain repeat offenders.
In section 302 of Indian Penal Code punishment of murder is given.
302. Punishment for murder. Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death,
or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
What is Heinous Crime?
The word "heinous"
is nowhere defined in Indian Penal Code. However, the word
has been interpreted by the judges in series of judgments. Heinous crimes are
those crimes that give a blow to collective conscience of society. We cannot
have any strait-jacket formula to classify these crimes, but to my
understanding, child rape or the cases which come under the category of "rarest
of rare" are heinous crimes. These crimes tend to create extreme revulsion in
the minds of people. Generally, power to exercise remission is not there for
Recently, there have been amendments in Criminal Law based on recommendations of
Justice Verma Committee. It says that now crimes which are done by children we
call them as juvenile crime ages is fixed the crime which is done by children of
16-18 years of age and done in inhuman manner are considered as rarest if rare
A clip of six students being firced to stand naked inside the compound of an
Andhra Pradesh school as punishment for turning up late for class has gone viral
on the social media, spurring protests by child rights activists. The video of
the incident, which occurred in Chitoor district four days ago, was shot from
the window of an adjacent school.
Some sections in which heinous offences can be committed:
A. The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Sec. 304B-. Dowry Death
- Sec. 311- Punishment of thug
- Sec. 326A-. voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid.
- Sec. 370-. Trafficking of person
- Sec. 376-. Punishment of rape
- Sec. 376D-. Gang rape
- Sec. 397-. Robbery, or dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous
- Sec. 398-. Attempt to commit robbery or dacoity when armed with deadly
These are some sections where heinous crime can be committed. Heinous crime
basically means crime which is done by a person in very inhuman manner like
chopping the death body in peaces, committing rape by kidnapping a girl several
time, burning someone alive etc are considered as heinous crime.
Constitutionality of Death penalty:
Jagmohan singh v. state of UP
The five judge bench of the Supreme Court, by a unanimous verdict, upheld the
constitutional validity of death penalty held that capital punishment was not
violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 and.
In this case the validity of death
sentence was challenged on the ground that it was violative of Articles 19 and
21 because it did not provide any procedure. It was contended that the procedure
prescribed under Cr. P.C. was confined only to findings of guilt and not
awarding death sentence. The Supreme Court held that the choice of death
sentence is done in accordance with the procedure established by law. It was
observed that the judge makes the choice between capital sentence or
imprisonment of life on the basis of circumstances and facts and nature of crime
brought on record during trial.
Rajendra Prasad vs. State of UP 
Justice Krishna Iyer empathetically stressed that death penalty is violative of
articles 14, 19 and 21. He further said that to impose death penalty the two
things must be required:
- The special reason should be recorded for imposing death penalty in a
- The death penalty must be imposed only in extraordinary circumstances.
Evolution of Sentencing Policy
Capital punishment has been a subject matter of great social and judicial
discussion and catechism. From whatever point of view it is examined one
undisputable statement of law follows that it is neither possible nor prudent to
state any universal formula which would be applicable to all the cases of
criminology where capital punishment has been prescribed. It shall always depend
upon the facts and circumstances of a given case.
Phase 1 (Focus on Crime)
Jagmohan Singh case
laid down that discretion in the matter of sentencing is to
be exercised by the judge after balancing all the aggravated and mitigating
circumstances of the crime.
Phase 2 Doctrine of Rarest of rare
(Shifting the focus from crime to criminal).
Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab
In which by a majority of 4 to 1 (Bhagwati J. dissenting) the five judge bench of
the Supreme Court overruled its earlier decision in Rajendra Prasad. It
expressed the view that death penalty, as an alternative punishment for murder
is not unreasonable and hence not violative of articles 14, 19 and 21 of the
Constitution of India, because the public order
contemplated by clauses (2) to
(4) of Article 19 is different from law and order
and also enunciated the
principle of awarding death penalty only in the rarest of rare cases
J. in his dissenting judgement observed that death penalty is not only
unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14 and 21 but also undesirable from
several points of view.
Guidelines of SC in this case:
Machhi Singh vs. State of Punjab
- The extreme penalty of death need not be inflicted except in gravest
cases of extreme culpability.
- Before opting for the death penalty the circumstances of the offerder
also requires to be taken into consideration along with the circumstances of
- Life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is an exception. In
other word death sentence must he imposed only life imprisonment appears to
be an altogether inadequate punishment having regard to the relevant
circumstances of the crime and only provided the option to impose sentence
of imprisonment for life cannot be conscientiously exercised having regard
to the nature and circumstances of the crime and all the relevant
- A balance sheet of aggravated and mitigating circumstances has to be
drawn up and in doing so the mitigating circumstances have to be accorded
full weightage and a just balance has to be struck between the aggravating and the
mitigating circumstances before the option is exercised.
The supreme court laid down the broad outlines of the circumstances when death
sentence should be imposed. Justice Thakkar speaking for the Court held that
five categories of cases may be regarded as rarest of rare cases deserving
extreme penalty. They are:
- Manner of Commission of murder:
When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal manner so as to arouse
intense and extreme indignation in the community, for instance, when the
house of the victim is set a flame to roast him alive, when the body is cut
to pieces or the victim is subjected to inhuman torture.
When the murder is committed for a motive which evinces depravity and
meanness eg. a hired assassin, a cold blooded murder to inherit
property, or gain control over property of a ward, or a murder committed for
betrayal of the motherland.
- Anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime:
where a scheduled caste or minority community person is murdered in
circumstances which arouse: social wrath; or bride burning for dowry, or for
- Magnitude of the Crime:
Crimes of enormous proportion, like multiple murders of a family or persons
of a particular caste, community or locality.
- Personality of victim of murder.
Deena vs. Union
The constitutional validity of section354(5) I.P.C. 1973 was challenged on the
ground that by rope as prescribed by this section was barbarous, inhuman and
degrading and therefore violative of Art. 21. The court held that section 354(5)
of the I.P.C., which prescribed hanging as mode of execution as fair, just and
reasonable procedure within the meaning of Art- 21 and hence is constitutional.
Sher Singh vs. State of Punjab
C.J. expressing the view of the three judges of The SC held that death sentence
is constitutionally valid and permissible within the constraints of the rule in
Bachan Singh. This has to be accepted as the law of the land.
Triveniben vs. State of Gujarat
The Supreme Court asserted affirmatively that the constitution does not prohibit
Mithu vs. State of Punjab
S.303 of the IPC was struck down as violative of Article 21 and 14 of the
Constitution of India, as the offence under the section was punishable only with
capital punishment and did not give the judiciary the power to exercise its
discretion and thus result in an unfair, unjust and unreasonable procedure
depriving a person of his life.
Thus, to sum up, it is clearly evident from a study of the above cited case laws
that death penalty is regarded as constitutional in India, despite several
legislative attempts to abolish the death penalty in India have failed, and it
is to this day prevalent in India as is evident from the recent case of Ajmal
Amir Kasab, who was executed in 2012. As in the above cases it shows that death
sentence is important in India. It depends upon the nature of the crime that
what type of punishment should be given so that justice should be maintained.
Death sentence is compulsory for the crime which is done in inhuman manner and
which is barbaric in nature and are considered as rarest of the rare cases.
According to the judgements of justices and the guidelines given death penalty
should be given. In all the above cases it is firstly said that death sentence
infringe article 21 of The Constitution of India.
Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty it says that:
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except as according
to procedure established by law.
But after the hearing of cases and giving light towards the fact and
circumstances it is decided that death penalty is not unconstitutional because
death sentence for heinous crime is not against morality. This creates fear in
the mind of individual not to do any wrong against any person which is against
Death Rate in 2018
There has been a 6% increases in the total number of crimes registered under
the Indian Penal Code in 2018. As many as 2,36,476 IPC cases were registered
last year, up from 2,23,077 in 2017. In percentage terms, the number of cases
filed rose by 6.01%. However, the total number of crimes such as rape, attempt
to murder and abduction, among others, have declined by 29.48%.
While total heinous crime in 2018 showed a 11.72% drop, cases of dacoity,
attempt to murder, robbery, rape and riot have gone down by 36.11%, 16.26%,
20.15%, 0.78% and 54% respectively, as compared to the year before. Even
incidents of snatching and burglary showed a declining trend.
However, there has been an increase in the number of murders, with 477 cases
registered in 2018 as compared to 462 in 2017. Out of these, 86.16 per cent
cases were solved. The incidents of murder, per lakh of population, showed a
significant decline over the last 14 years, coming down to 2.60% last year from
3.29% in 2004.
In my opinion, there is no doubt that guilty persons and criminals must be
punished and that their punishment should be proportional to the severity of
their crime. These punishments are required to maintain rule of law in society,
in which law abiding citizens are protected from law breakers. In the absence of
punishment, society's dishonest and criminal elements would render it unliveable
for the common man.
Awarding death sentence for heinous crime is very important
for those people who thinks to do the crime of such a nature. In country like
India, there are safeguards which ensures that death sentence should not be
given to a innocent person. Individuals who argue against the death sentence do
not disagree about the need for imposing some other form of punishment.
they agree that a severe punishment is in order, they oppose the death sentence
as an improper and unethical method of punishment. I do not agree with this line
of reasoning, as I believe that punishments should be proportional to the
severity of the crime. A criminal is only assigned a death sentence in extreme
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
- Gupta 1986; Mohapatra and Mohapatra 2016
- Bare Act The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- (1973) 1 SCC 20.
- (1979) 3 SCR 646.
- AIR 1980 SC 898 : (1980) 2 SCC 684
- 1983 (3) SCC 470 : AIR 1983 SC957.
- (1983) 4 SSC 645.
- A.I.R 1983 S.C 365.
- A.I.R. 1989 S.C 142.
- (1983)2 SSC 277.