Capital Punishment In India

This article is written by Malika Bawa, student of BALLB 2nd year studying at Lovely Professional University. This article discusses Capital Punishment In India


The term ‘Capital Punishment’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Capitalis’ means ‘regarding the head’. Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, It is a state-sanctioned practice of killing a person as a punishment for a crime. The act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution.


Capital punishment is defined in Indian Penal Code 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code 1898. In India capital punishment is given to a person who commit heinous and grievous crime i.e., it is given in the rarest of the rare cases and execution is done by hanging the person. In 1949, Nathuram Godse was the first person to be hanged in Independent India.

To whom capital punishment is given:

Broadly there are Eleven offences mentioned in Indian Penal Code1860 and other Acts:

  • Section 120B : Being a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit a capital offence.
  • Section 121 : Making War, Trying to Make War, or Making War Against the Government of India.
  • Section 132 : Inciting rebellion in the armed forces (where it leads to rebellion), participation in rebellion.
  • Section 194 : Providing or fabricating false evidence for the purpose of obtaining a capital conviction.
  • Sections 302, 303: Murder.
  • Section 305 : Assisted suicide of a minor.
  • Section 364A: Kidnapping, in the course of which the victim was held for ransom or other coercive purposes.
  • Section 376A: Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013: Rape where perpetrator inflicts injury and victim dies or is incapacitated in a vegetative state, or repeat offender.
  • Section 396: Robbery involving murder, if a group of five or more people commit a robbery and one of them commits a murder in the course of the crime, all members of the group are liable.
  • Part II, Section 4 of the Sati Prevention Act, aiding or abetting any action of Sati
  • Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 – Trafficking of Narcotics for Recurrence Offense: Notwithstanding Section 31, if a person has As a result, has been convicted of having committed or attempted to commit, or abetted or attempted to commit any offense under Section 27 of The NDPS Act, including offenses involving commercial quantities of any tranquilizer or mind-altering substance. charged with commissions, attempted commissions, aiding or abetting, or conspiracy to commit a crime.

Category Of Offenders Excluded From Capital Punishment

Minor: As per the Indian Law, any person who is under18 years and had commited crime at that then he/she can’t be given capital

Pregnant Woman As per the alteration made in the year 2009, Pregnant women cannot be given death sentence

Intellectually Disabled : As per the Indian Penal Code, any individual while committing out a heinous act was rationally sick or can’t comprehend that the nature of the act performed by him is risky, can’t be rebuffed by capital punishment.

Constitution Validity Of Capital Punishment

Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P

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 21and .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.

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab

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’.

Machhi Singh vs. State of Punjab

The SC laid down the broad outlines of the circumstances when death sentence should be imposed. Justice Thakkar speaking for the Court held that cases may be regarded as rarest of rare cases deserving extreme penalty.


Prevention of future crimes: By assigning the worst punishment to the worst of crimes, future offences may be deterred. This has a significant impact on psychological health. When a person is aware that he will certainly face severe consequences for a particular action and that the cost of that behaviour greatly outweighs the benefit, it is obvious that he will not take that action.

Assure justice: The use of the death penalty guarantees that justice is done. Justice for all Indian people is one of the goals listed in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. The methods for achieving such justice are essential.

Judicial Reasoning: The application of the death penalty is not arbitrary. In India, the death penalty is not administered based on a lack of proof, reason, or logic. As was already mentioned, the death penalty is only ever used in the most extreme cases. Even if the death sentence is carried out, the defendant is allowed to plead for mercy, and if necessary, the death sentence may be changed to life in prison due to excessive delay. After receiving the mercy appeal, the executive may conduct a different inquiry and request fresh evidence. The executive may grant the mercy plea and commute the convict’s death sentence to life in prison if new information, or information not previously known, comes to light.

Author: Malika Bawa,
lovely Professional University 2022

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