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Capital Punishment: A Need or Necessity?

What is Capital Punishment?

According to Merriam-Webster, - Punishment by Death; the practice of killing people as a punishment for serious crimes.

Capital punishment (i.e. Death Penalty) is a form of punishment under which the offender is to be executed after being sentenced to death by the court of law. It is the highest degree of punishment awarded to anyone under the law in any part of the world. It is the tool used by the judiciary to punish the individual who is guilty of the most heinous and degrading crimes against society.

James Fitzjames Stephen, an English jurist, believed that:
No other punishment deters man so effectually from committing crimes as the punishment of death. This is one of those proposals that are difficult to prove just because they are more obvious than any proof can make them. In any secondary punishment, however terrible, there is hope, but death is death; its terrors cannot be described more forcibly.

Background of Capital Punishment

Before independence, India retained the death penalty practice as mentioned under IPC 1860 as prescribed by the British Assembly. However, several Constituent Assembly members were in favour of abolishing the death penalty while they were in the process of making the Constitution but to no avail.

Post Independence, many private members bills were introduced in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, but not one of them was passed. As per the estimate, around 3000 to 4000 execution took place between 1950 to 1980. Even more so in the next decade. However, it is estimated that two or three people were hanged annually in the late-1990s.

Position in India
India has opposed a UN resolution that sought to promote a moratorium on the death penalty and abolish it. Also, Indian Representatives said:
Every state has the sovereign right to determine its legal system and appropriate legal penalties.
In India, the Death penalty is only granted in the ‘rarest of the rare' cases. However, the court hasn't clarified what constitutes a case to be rarest. Indian Laws fulfil all the requisite and procedural safeguards, which includes:
  • Right to Fair Trial
  • Presumption of Innocence
  • Right to have a defence (If the person can't afford. Then Free Legal Aid is provided)
  • Right to review by HC of States
  • Capital punishment is only awarded for the most heinous and grievous crime.

Article 21 provides that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Hence, we can say the ‘right to life' is promised to every individual residing in India.

Who has the power to overturn the ruling of the court?

The President of India can grant mercy in any case where the death penalty has been awarded. However, in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab,[1] the court held that the death penalty would only be given in ‘rarest of rare cases.

Once an offender has been sentenced to death by the Sessions Court, the HC of the State must confirm it. If the convict makes the appeal to the SC, but it ultimately fails, he is left with the only alternative to submit for a 'mercy petition' to the President of India. The Supreme Court has provided detailed instructions on the procedure that are to be followed by the state judiciary to deal with petitions for mercy from death-sentenced convicts. Although, appeals to SC and request for special petition leave by convicts have to follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Article 72 of the Constitution of India provides the President with powers to grant pardon, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or suspend, remit or reduce the sentence of any individual who has been convicted of an offence.

Modes of Execution

Different countries use different methods of execution. Hanging, Lethal Injection, Electrocution, Beheading, and Public Execution by shooting are the current methods used throughout the world. Most of the above is an inhumane and gross violation of Human Rights. There are two modes of execution in India viz. Hanging and Shooting.
  1. Hanging: After Independence, Every death penalty in India is carried out by hanging. Nathu Ram Gods was the first person to be

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