“State-sanctioned death penalty promotes fear of the law and serves as a deterrent to future offenders.” In the light of the given statement, critically analyze the idea of capital punishment as a deterrent to heinous crimes in the country. (15 Marks)

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Recently a veterinary doctor was brutally raped and burnt in Telangana. Post this incidence Supreme Court of India has upheld the capital punishment of all four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya case. After most such heinous crimes, calls for capital punishment for the convicts become strong and so does the debate over the need for capital punishment.

Capital Punishment in India

  • India has reserved capital punishment for rarest of rare cases.
  • However, only four death-row prisoners were executed in the last 13 years, the most recent of which was in 2015. One had raped a minor and three were convicted of terrorism.
  • There were 371 prisoners on the death row in India by end December 2017 with the oldest case from 1991, 27 years ago, according to the Death Penalty in India report published in January 2018.
  • According to the Law Commission of India 2015 report “Death row, prisoners continue to face long delays in trials, appeals and thereafter in executive clemency, during this time, the prisoner on death row suffers from extreme agony, anxiety and debilitating fear arising out of imminent yet uncertain execution.”
  • Among the prisoners whose mercy petitions were rejected by the President of India, the median time spent in prison under trial was 16 years nine months, and median time under sentence of death was 10 years five months.
  • Supreme court has held that such delay in decision on mercy petitions tantamounts to violation of fundamental rights of the convicts.
  • In the case of Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab(1980), Justice Bhagwati in his dissenting opinion stated that the death penalty is necessarily arbitrary, discriminatory and capricious.
  • In the recent judgment in Shatrughan Chauhan Vs. Union of India(2014), the Supreme Court of India has laid down certain guidelines as to how the death penalty can be converted into a life sentence. The same was implemented in the case of Union of India vs. Sriharan(2015), popularly known as the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Capital Punishment Internationally 

Death sentence has been abolished in 142 countries in law or practice across the world while 56 have retained it, according to this March 2018 report by Amnesty International, a global human rights advocacy.

Arguments in favour of capital punishment

  • Capital punishment is a definite deterrent to a crime.
  • Capital punishment is a moral war. Some thinker believes that capital punishment is a weapon by which society fights a moral war against criminals an immoralist.
  • Capital punishment is a social need. It is a need because it is necessary for the maintenance of social order, peace and harmony.
  • Capital punishment is a selective process. It is a method by which nature eliminates those individuals who are dangerous for the society and whose continuing existence in society poses a threat to social law and order.
  • According to a famous Greek philosopher, Plato, “If a man cannot be harmless otherwise than in sleep, it is better for him to die than live.”
  • Capital punishment is a legal demand. If the criminal is let off unpunished, this would militate against the majesty of the law and gradually respect for law will vanish from the society. Losing faith in law and justice would make people go for street—justice and avenging the wrong at the personal level.
  • According to some thinker, capital punishment is economic saving as money is saved from protecting, housing the convicts in jail.

Arguments against capital punishment

  • Capital punishment can result in grave injustice. No innocent should be convicted. However, in actual practice, the error of judgement cannot be ruled out. The law courts are bound by admissible evidence produced inside the courts which can be manipulated. Winning the case is more dependent upon the competence of the lawyer rather than the merit of the case.
  • Capital punishment leaves no room for repentance. No man is above wrong. To err is human. A person who realizes his mistake and repents for it, usually not only become law-abiding citizens but also become a social reformer in some instances.
  • Capital punishment is not selective. Many innocents are hanged because they lack the resources to defend themselves. And on the contrary, many hardened criminals escape even detection.
  • Capital punishment does not save money.
  • Capital punishment is irreligious. Most of the religions of the world are based upon implicit faith in God. God is considered the ultimate creator and he alone has the power to destroy. Anyone who does not have the power to make life has no power to take life. Howsoever mighty the state may be, it cannot make life. Therefore, from the religion point of view, it also has no authority to deprive anyone of life.
  • Statistics and studies have shown that capital punishment does not reduce the crime level. It means that it does not act as a definite deterrent.


Way Forward

  • Fully agreeing with the recommendation of the Law Commission in its 262nd Report. The Law Commission in its 262nd Report has called for the abolishment of the death penalty in all cases except for those relating to terror cases.
  • Also, certain guidelines have to be laid down as to the execution of death warrants within a specified time limit.
  • Execution to death must not be for political purposes as seen in the recent case of Yakub Memon.

Therefore the death penalty is itself an offence against humanity. God has given us life and no state has the right to take it. Thus the process of death sentence should be declared unconstitutional and as an offence against human rights. 

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Udit Kumar
Udit Kumar
2 years ago
Dipanshu Sharma
Dipanshu Sharma
2 years ago

please review…
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