CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDIA (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     21st May 2024        
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Context: The Kerala High Court recently affirmed the death sentence handed down by a trial court to, the sole perpetrator in the 2016 rape and murder case of a 30-year-old law student in Ernakulam district.


Capital punishment in India

  • About: Also known as the death penalty, is legally imposed in India only for heinous offenses.
  • History of Capital Punishment

oMauryan Era: In this era, individuals who violated the law faced various punishments based on the nature of their offense. The dynasty adhered to the principle of "an eye for an eye, a hand for a hand" to penalize wrongdoers.

oBritish Era: In this era, Indians were frequently sentenced to death and executed, often following a trial or even without one. However, post-independence, India entered a new phase in its judicial system.

oAfter Independence: When India became a republic nation and got its independence from the British era, and that brings a huge change in the system of passing death penalties to accused.

oThe United Nations formally denounces capital punishment, regarding it as a violation of fundamental human rights.

  • Section 368 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973: It provides the authority to High Courts for confirmation of death sentence.
  • Article 39A: Inspired by Article 39A of the Indian Constitution, aiming to promote equal justice and equal opportunity by removing socio-economic barriers.
  • Sessions Courts in 2022: 165 death sentences imposed by Sessions Courts in India during 2022.
  • Highest Convicts: Uttar Pradesh led with 32 death sentences imposed in 2022, followed by Gujarat (61) and Jharkhand (46).
  • Majority Cases: Sexual offenses constituted the majority (51.28%) of cases resulting in the death penalty imposed by trial courts in 2022.

Judgements Related Death Penalty

  • Deena Vs. Union Of India: The court affirmed the constitutionality of hanging as a mode of execution under section 354(5) of the Indian Penal Code, considering it fair and just under Article 21.
  • Bachan Singh v State of Punjab: The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the death sentence, emphasizing its applicability only in the "rarest of rare cases."
  • Machhi Singh Vs. State of Punjab: This case introduced exceptions to the rarest of rare rule, allowing the death penalty when a murder is exceptionally brutal, driven by total depravity, or when the crime is of enormous proportion.

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