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Capital Punishment: Weighing Justice and Morality in the Modern Era

Capital punishment in recent times have been a very debatable topic in India, where about many people are against the law of capital punishment. Not only in India but many countries like Afganistan, Egypt, South Korean still follow the concept of Capital punishment. The paper will deal with as to what Capital punishment is with briefing about its history, constitutional validity of this law and when it is granted along with some landmark judgements.

Capital punishment or death penalty is defined as a legal process where a person is hanged upon to death by the state for the crime committed by him. The word capital is a latin term, "capitalis" meaning concerning the head. Section 354(5) of Crpc, mentions the primary method of execution of capital punishment, "hanging by the neck until dead".

The concept of death penalty in India has been running from past years. Crimes which are punishable by the sentence of death penalty includes serious crimes like mass murder, terrorism, rape, crime against humanity and further. India is not only a country awarding the sentence of death penalty, many more countries like Afganistan, Egypt, south Korea, Singapore.

In recent years, the concept of awarding capital punishment has been a very debatable topic with many arguments presented by general people, lawyers. Judges and all. Amnesty International clearly declares that capital punishment breaches Article 21, which talks about right to life and is a fundamental right given to the citizens if India.

As per reports by the end of 2022, 53 countries retained the concept of capital punishment with 111 countries having abolished capital punishment completely.

History Of Death Penalty

The concept of capital punishment has been repeatedly in use since, Eighteenth Century B.C, under the code of King Hammurabi. Back in earlier century, capital punishment was awarded by means of drowning a person, beating to death, burning alive. By passing of time, hanging a person to death came out to be the most common method.

Death penalty has been prevailing in India from the era of Mughal empire. He ruler of the Mughal empire made it clear about awarding death penalty when the crime committed by a person is serious, in those time punishment was granted in ways like tossing a person to sun covering them or nailing them in the walls alongside other bodies.

With time and passing of centuries, after India being Independent, diversified laws were introduced by the Republic of India, which include. Indian Penal code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

Capital punishment in today's era.

When talked about capital punishment in today's era, there have been number of cases filled for which the sentence of death penalty has been awarded by supreme court of India.

When awarding a punishment like hanging someone to death, the question which arises in everybody's mind is as to what kind of crimes leads to this? Here comes the doctrine of,"RAREST OF THE RARE" case. The doctrine was formulated in one of the most leading judgements, Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab. After the verdict there were many questions which came, as to what is the test for analysing and categorising the crime under this doctrine, scope of it and is the constitutionally valid to award death penalty to any person?

Answers to questions were answered by different cases, Macchi Singh Case, court laid down the test as to which a crime qualifies for the punishment of death penalty which includes, manner of punishment of crime which includes inhuman's acts, brutal murder by cutting the body into pieces.

In recent time, the execution of death penalty in India is still constitutionally valid.

When the person committing such heinous crime doesn't think about the life of the victim then why should the judicial system of India think. Article 21, which provides right to life clearly, hasn't it provided life to right to victim, who's life is taken away?

Another one of the cases, where death penalty was awarded to seven convicts, the case famously known as Nirbhaya Case, which was one the most terrifying cases in history. The victim was raped brutally by six men, which lead to rupturing of her body parts and pulling out of her intestinal tract. The verdict for the case was given and in 2020, the four convicts were hanged to death.

As per the reports, at the end of 2022, 539 were on death row, the highest since 2016.

Awarding of Capital Punishment for crimes which are not only brutal but also terrifying, is completely valid but alternatives can be implemented for the same. The use of the death penalty is acknowledged as a kind of retributive and preventive punishment as well as an effective deterrent in society.

Many claim that it infringes on fundamental rights and is ineffective as a deterrent. In the Indian context, it is possible to argue that some acts are so heinous and dreadful in character that no punishment less than the death penalty can be thought of as fair or right.

Similar to how Justice ML Tahaliyani stated in the Ajmal Kasab case that "he lost his right to humanitarian treatment," such offenders lose their right to humanitarian treatment for committing barbarous actions. Death warrants are only ever issued in India during the most exceptional examples, and they always stand out. Because the State wouldn't be able to act when the rarest of rare circumstances occurred, completely abolishing the death penalty would put the country at greater risk.

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