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CASTING SHADOWS OF JUSTICE: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDIA

“Do they deserve to die?

but

Do we deserve to kill them?


Abstract:

Capital Punishment, sometimes known as the death penalty or death sentence, has generated a lot of interest and debate throughout the world, particularly in India. This contentious subject is looked at throughout the study from several perspectives, including its historical context, legal standing, moral ramifications, and societal impacts. In the twenty-first century, the issue of the rising crime rate is a problem for both developed and developing countries. India, a developing country, has several written laws that offer a variety of punishments to punish the perpetrators and reduce crime. There are several different types of punishment possible in India, including the death sentence, imprisonment for life, heavy fines, etc. Capital punishment or the death penalty, is only applied to the worst crimes. The sketch of the backdrop and history of the death sentence in India, as well as certain major Supreme Court decisions, were covered in this article. This article will give you an overview of the death sentences imposed and describe how they are carried out in India with international comparison and public opinion.


Introduction

Some criminals may be put to death by the application of the death penalty under the Indian Penal Code, which acts as the country's main substantive penal law. According to the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973 Section 354(5), "Hanging by the neck until dead" is the preferred method of execution and is only approved in the "rarest of cases."Currently, India has 488 prisoners on execution row. Four of the convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder case were executed in March 2020 at the Tihar Jail in Delhi, making it the most recent execution in India. When a crime is committed, the law considers it to be harmful to society as a whole, even when the immediate victim is a person. The death sentence as a punishment seems to be a highly serious subject because it involves taking someone's life, which is a very delicate affair. Because of this, nations like India, the United States, and some other governments ponder the question, "Why the death penalty for criminals?" But if we focus on India, we observe that reformative and preventative punishment ideas aren't mostly applied in the most exceptional cases where the penalty is given a break.


Capital Punishment in India

Since ancient times, India's judicial system has included the death penalty. The death sentence is mentioned as a type of punishment in the ancient book on statecraft known as the Arthashastra. 1However, over time, its application has changed. The death penalty was often utilized during British colonial control, and the British government executed numerous liberation fighters. Following independence, the Indian government kept the death sentence as part of its judicial system. The right to life and personal freedom is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, however, it is not unqualified and may be limited in some situations, such as when the death penalty is applied.


Public Opinion

Deterrence: Supporters claim that the death sentence deters potential criminals from committing crimes. They contend that the possibility of a harsh penalty, such as the death penalty, can deter individuals from committing terrible crimes like murder.

Retribution: Some people view the death penalty as a means of enforcing justice or vengeance for the most egregious offences because they adhere to the "an eye for an eye" idea. They contend that the punishment ought to be appropriate for the offence.

Closure for victims' families: Advocates claim that the death penalty gives families of murder victims closure. Those who have lost can feel relieved in the knowledge that the offender will never be able to harm anybody else.

Cost Saving: Some claim that while life imprisonment might be expensive, execution of inmates may be more affordable than doing so.

Irreversibility: According to proponents, the death sentence should only be applied in situations when there is devastating evidence of guilt. They contend that it makes sure that if dangerous criminals were released in the future, they would not have the chance to perpetrate other crimes.

3International Perspective

Abolitionist Countries: Many nations have completely abolished the death sentence. These nations contend that the death penalty is harsh and irreversible and that it violates human rights. Canada, the majority of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries in Latin America and Africa are examples of such countries

Retentionlist Countries: Some nations still practice the death penalty and execute people who have been found guilty of specific crimes. According to these nations, the death penalty is an essential deterrent and punishment for serious crimes. The United States, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many more nations in Asia and the Middle East are examples of retentionist nations.

Prohibition of executions: A moratorium on executions has been enacted in some nations, effectively suspending the death penalty. These governments frequently cite the moratorium's justifications as being concerned about unjust convictions, unfair trials, and human rights violations. This group includes numerous African nations and India.

International Organization: International organizations like the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have been outspoken supporters of the death penalty being abolished globally. The EU has made abolition a requirement for membership in the UN, and the UN has passed resolutions calling for an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

International Law: Respecting the right to life has become more and more important in international law. When the death sentence is still used, laws like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) discourage its usage and establish strict guidelines for its execution.

Human Rights Perspective: Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch vehemently oppose the death sentence and fight to have it abolished. They contend it is unjust, inhumane, and may result in the execution of innocent individuals.

Trends: A growing number of nations have either abolished the death penalty or stopped actively carrying out executions in recent years, indicating a global trend toward abolition. However, some nations have broadened the use of the death sentence under certain conditions.


Alternatives of Capital Punishment

Life Imprisonment: A conviction results in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty. This guarantees that they are expelled from society and cease to be a danger to the neighbourhood.

Restorative Justice: Instead of just punishing the criminal, this strategy emphasizes making up for the damage that was done by the crime. To achieve restitution, reconciliation, and rehabilitation, it frequently entails communication between the victim and the perpetrator.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration: Investing in initiatives and services that assist criminal offenders in rehabilitation and reintegration. This includes services to help people change their lives, such as education, job training, counselling, and other forms of support.


Landmark Cases


"Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab"(1989)

"Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab" is a landmark judgment in Indian jurisprudence that pertains to the constitutionality of the death penalty in India. This case was heard by the Supreme Court of India and resulted in the formulation of important legal principles regarding the imposition of the death penalty. Bachan Singh was a petitioner who challenged the constitutional validity of the death penalty under Indian law. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. Whether the death sentence violates the fundamental rights protected by the Indian Constitution, particularly Article 21, which safeguards the right to life and personal liberty, was the main question before the Supreme Court in this case. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, upheld the constitutional legality of the death penalty. However, it introduced the "rarest of the rare" doctrine, which states that the death sentence should only be enforced in the "rarest of the rare" cases where the offence is especially terrible and brutal. The Court ruled that the death sentence should only be applied where life in prison would be a wholly insufficient punishment.


Machhi Singh vs. State of Punjab (1983)

In Indian criminal law, the case of Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab represents a turning point. This case addressed the subject of the death penalty being imposed for the crime of murder and established significant guidelines for the conditions under

which the death sentence might be imposed. In this case, Machhi Singh and another individual were found guilty of killing seven family members, including women and children. They were given death sentences by the trial court, and the case eventually made it to India's Supreme Court. The "rarest of the rare" principle was established by the Supreme Court in its decision in 1983 regarding the application of the death penalty. The death sentence should only be applied in the "rarest of the rare" instances when the crime was so shockingly awful and extraordinary that it shocked society's conscience. The Court highlighted that the death sentence should only be used sparingly and in situations where it would be more appropriate than the alternative punishment of life in prison. The judgment also stated that the crime and the criminal must both be taken into consideration by the court when deciding whether the death penalty is suitable. Considerations should be made for elements such as the crime's motivation, how it was perpetrated, the accused's history, and the effect the crime has had on society.


"Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi),"

The "Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi)," also referred to as the "Nirbhaya case," is a prominent and highly discussed criminal case in India. The cruel gang rape and murder of a young woman on December 16, 2012, in Delhi, is the subject of the case. A group of six men attacked the victim, who later went by the name Nirbhaya, and her male friend violently aboard a moving bus in Delhi. Outrage and demonstrations over the case spread throughout India and the rest of the world, inspiring calls for justice and improvements to the legal system to better safeguard women's rights. For his part in the terrible act, the trial court sentenced Mukesh Singh and the other defendants to death by hanging in 2013. They were found guilty of rape, murder, and other offences by the court, and the decision was widely celebrated as a victory for justice.


Conclusion

Since the beginning of time, India has applied the death sentence, commonly referred to as capital punishment. The death sentence has been the most popular punishment in India for crimes and offences that essentially violate the law from the days of the monarchy. There was no concept of heinous or significant crimes that would call for the death punishment. The concepts of "rarest of rare cases," "special reasons," "grievous crimes," "serious offences," etc. are now taken into account before the death penalty is administered. The death penalty is a sensitive topic; there is growing global resistance to it, and many countries have done away with it as a form of punishment. Nowhere in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does it expressly forbid the use of the death sentence, but Article 6 lays out important guarantees that signatories who still impose it must preserve. Despite the commotion surrounding Nirbhaya's case, both Amnesty International India and the International Commission of Jurists condemned the executions. Australia and the United States are the only two countries that have the death penalty as a punishment for crimes including murder and rape.



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