Throughout the Mauryan Dynasty, those who committed offenses against the dynasty’s laws faced punishments that varied depending on the type of offense. The dynasty’s guiding principle for punishing the transgressor or offender was “an eye for an eye,” “a hand for a hand,” etc.

History reveals that the first monarch to codify the criminal laws pertaining to the death penalty or capital punishment was King Hammurabi of Babylon.

Indians were given the death penalty during the British era and were hanged till they died either after or before the formal trial. But with India’s independence, the country’s legal system entered a new phase.

The death penalty, or the death penalty, is prohibited by the UN as a violation of human rights.

“The legal death sentence is capital punishment. India only imposes the death penalty for really serious crimes.”

According to Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, section 368, High Courts have the ability to confirm death sentences.In India, the death sentence is applied to the most serious crimes and horrific offenses that fit into the category of extremely uncommon situations.

India supported the resolution that called for the UN General Assembly to outlaw the death penalty by casting a vote in favor of it.


The foundation of all penalties is the same idea that misconduct always has to have a consequence. The punishment is being meted out for two key reasons. Two opposing views exist: the first holds that punishing those who have acted improperly is both morally and ethically acceptable and that doing so deters others from acting improperly. The basis for the death penalty is the same as those of other penalties.. The criminal justice system in India includes the death penalty as a fundamental component. 

With the human rights movement growing in strength in India, more people are beginning to question the morality of the death penalty. This is strange, as it is morally wrong to keep one person alive at the expense of many other members of the community or potential victims. The capital punishment, commonly known as the death penalty, is the execution of a criminal sentenced to death following a court of law’s conviction. The death penalty ought to be distinguished from extrajudicial killings that occur without following the required legal procedures. Though the possibility of commutation to life imprisonment means that the imposition of the penalty does not necessarily result in execution the terms “death penalty” and “capital punishment” used interchangeably. 


The death penalty is a historic sanction. Almost every country on the planet has used the death penalty. Throughout human history, the death sentence has never been abandoned as a form of punishment.

Under Draco’s regulations (c.7th century BCE), the death penalty was often used in ancient Greece for murder, treason, arson, and rape, despite Plato’s belief that it should only be used for the irredeemably guilty. Although people were exempt from punishment for a short time during the republic, the Romans nonetheless used it for several offences. This is supported by Sir Henry Marine’s observation that the Roman Republic “did not abolish the death sentence, though its non-use was primarily directed by the procedure of questions and the practice of punishment or exile”.


When one of the Bihar members, Shri Gaya Prasad Singh, attempted to introduce a bill to remove the death penalty for offenses covered by the Indian Penal Code in 1931, the matter of the death penalty was not brought up in the Legislative Assembly of British India. But once the then-home minister responded to the motion, it was rejected.

The then-Home Minister, Sir John Thorne, made the government’s position on the death penalty in British India prior to independence quite evident twice in 1946 during Legislative Assembly discussions. “The government does not believe it is wise to remove death penalty for any crime for which it is currently administered. “

Several laws enacted by the British colonial authority were still in effect in India upon independence, including the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (also known as the “IPC”) and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (also known as “Cr.P.C. 1898”). The death penalty was one of the six legal penalties specified by the IPC.

Section 367(5) required courts to record their reasons for not imposing the death penalty for offenses for which it was an option. Specifically, if an accused person is found guilty of a crime for which the death penalty is an option and the court decides to sentence them to a punishment other than death, the court must explain its decision in the judgment.

In 1955, the Parliament repealed Section 367(5), CrPC, significantly altering

the position of the death sentence. The death penalty was no longer norm, and courts

did not need special reasons for why they are not imposing the death penalty as a  punishment in caseswhere it is a prescribed punishment.

The Code of Criminal Procedure was re-enacted in 1973, and changes were made, to Section 354(3):

If convicted of an offence punishable by death, life imprisonment, or a period of years, the judgement must describe the reasons for the sentence, including any exceptional reasons for death. Section 235(2) states that if the accused is found guilty, the judge must, unless he proceeds in line with the provisions of Section 360, hear the accused on the issue of sentence and then pass sentence on him under law. These revisions added the possibility of a post-conviction hearing on punishment, including the death penalty.


The international landscape around the death sentence has developed over the last few decades, both in terms of international law and state practice. Internationally, countries are classed according to their death penalty status in the following categories

  • Abolitionist for all crimes
  • Abolitionist for ordinary crimes 
  • Abolitionist de facto 
  • Retentionist 

As of the end of 2014, 140 countries worldwide were either abolitionist in law or practice: 98 were abolitionist for all crimes, 7 were abolitionist for common crimes exclusively, and 35 were abolitionist in practice. Regarded as retentionist nations, 58 of them still maintain the death sentence in their legal codes and have applied it within the last ten years. Even though only a small number of nations still uphold the death sentence, the majority of people on the planet could be subject to it because this list contains some of the most populous countries in the world, such as the United States, China, India, and Indonesia. 

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT : THE CURRENT STATUS Supreme Court on Validity of Capital Punishment in India               

The Indian Constitution’s Article 21 guarantees the fundamental right to life and liberty

for every individual. It further states that no one may be deprived of their life or freedom unless following the legal process as defined. According to legal interpretation, 

the state may prohibit a party from participating in a proceeding provided it is just and legitimate.

the love of his life. While the federal government has continuously insisted that it will keep the death penalty on the books as a deterrent for people who pose a threat to society, the S.C. has also affirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty in the “rarest of rare” circumstances. In the cases of Jagmohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh,), Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), and Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1979 the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty’s constitutionality. It stated that if the death penalty is allowed by law and the trial process is impartial, rational, and fair, a guilty party may be sentenced to death. But only in the “rarest of rare” circumstances will this be the case, and when executing someone, the courts ought to give “special reasons.”

Criteria for Rarest of Rare

The principles as to what would constitute the “rarest of rare” have been laid down by the top Court in the judgment in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980). The Supreme Court established specific broad illustrative parameters and declared that it should only be applied in cases where it is “unquestionably foreclosed” to impose a life sentence. The court was entirely free to decide how to come to this decision.

The top court established the notion of evaluating aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Suppose a punishment other than the death penalty is given. In that case, creating a balance sheet of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in that specific instance is necessary to determine whether justice will not be served. The Supreme Court decided that two primary questions can be asked and addressed. First, is there something distinctive about the crime that renders a life term in prison insufficient and necessitates the death penalty?

Second, are there circumstances surrounding the crime such that there is no alternative but to impose the death penalty, even after giving maximum weight to mitigating circumstances that speak in favour of the offenders?



In conclusion, the history of capital punishment in India is deeply rooted in its past, shaped by ancient practices, British colonial influence, and subsequent legal reforms. Since gaining independence in 1947, India has undergone significant changes in its approach to the death penalty, aligning itself with the global discourse on human rights. The international scenario underscores the diversity in attitudes towards capital punishment, with some nations advocating for its abolition while others retain it in their legal systems.

India’s legal framework, as reflected in the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, allows for imposing the death penalty in the “rarest of rare” cases. The Supreme Court has established stringent criteria and a careful evaluation process to determine when such a sentence is justifiable. The principles outlined in cases, such as Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, emphasize the need for a thorough examination of aggravating and mitigating circumstances to ensure that justice is served.

While India has supported global initiatives calling for the abolition of the death penalty, it continues to uphold its constitutional provisions for exceptional cases. The ongoing debate surrounding the morality, effectiveness, and human rights implications of capital punishment remains a complex and evolving discussion within the nation.

As the world grapples with divergent perspectives on the death penalty, India’s stance reflects a delicate balance between acknowledging the severity of certain crimes and the imperative to uphold the right to life and dignity. The discourse surrounding capital punishment in India reflects the broader global conversation about the ethical and legal considerations inherent in administering the ultimate form of punishment.




  1. When was the last death penalty in India?

The last execution in India took place on March 20, 2020, when four men found guilty of gang rape and murder in Delhi in 2012 were hanged. It’s crucial to remember, too, that India still has the death sentence in place for some crimes, and there have been continuous discussions and legal disputes about its use.

2. What is the most common punishment in India?

The most prevalent penalty for crimes in India varies according on how serious the offense was. The most typical penalty for less serious violations is a fine or a brief spell of incarceration. Longer prison terms are typical for more serious offenses. The death penalty is rarely applied and is saved for the most horrible offenses.

3. Which IPC section has death penalty?

Several parts of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) allow for the death sentence to be applied as a punishment for specific crimes. The following are a few sections that mention the death penalty:

Murder under Section 302
Section 303: Life sentence for murder

Section 305: Aiding a minor or deranged person in taking their own life
Section 307: Life sentence for attempted murder
Section 364A: Ransom kidnapping, etc.

These are some of the IPC sections that list the death sentence as a possible punishment. It is crucial to remember that the death sentence is not always applied to crimes specified in these sections; rather, it is subject to judicial processes.

4. Has India banned death penalty?

The death sentence is still legal in India. In India, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other laws still allow the death sentence as a form of punishment for some offenses. Nonetheless, there have been appeals for the death penalty to be abolished by a number of human rights organizations and activists, as well as discussions and debates over its repeal.

5. Why is life imprisonment 14 years in India?

In India, a 14-year sentence does not always equate to life in prison. In India, life imprisonment often entails a prisoner being imprisoned for the entirety of their natural life, without a pardon or remission from the relevant authorities.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) rules that permit a review of a life sentence after 14 years to examine the possibility of remission or early release may be the source of the misconception. The relevant government or authority has the final say over this review, which is not automatic.

It’s crucial to remember that the actual length of a life sentence in India might vary depending on the circumstances of each case and the rulings made by the appropriate authorities.

6. Which country abolished death penalty recently?

A number of nations have done away with the death penalty since my last update. Several current instances consist of:

>Chad: The death penalty was repealed for all offenses in Chad in 2020.

>Kazakhstan: The death penalty was repealed for all crimes in Kazakhstan in 2021.

>Sierra Leone: The death penalty was abolished in Sierra Leone for all crimes in 2021.

>Malawi: The death sentence was abolished in Malawi in 2022 for all offenses.

These are but a few of instances; additional nations may have recently done away with the death sentence.

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