Death Penalty in India
#GS 02 Judiciary
History of death penalty
- Death penalty is also called as Capital punishment and is derived from the Latin word ‘capitalis’ which denotes ‘regarding the head’.
- The earliest codification of death penalty laws can be traced back to the 18th century B.C. to the the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon.
- These laws made it possible to be executed for theft, perjury, and other crimes that today are punished much more lightly in most countries.
- Moreover, the punishments were based on the social status of the accused rather than the intensity of the crime.
- The Draconian Code of Athens, in 7th century B.C., made death the sole punishment for any and all crimes.
- This resulted in the term “draconian” becoming the common usage to describe extremely harsh penalties.
Capital Punishment in India
- The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1861, prescribed capital punishment for offenses such as murder.
- While there were debates on removing the capital punishment in the constituent assembly, it was preserved to stay as a deterrent against those who aim to commit capital offenses such as murder, rape, terrorism etc.
- The Supreme Court in the Bachan Singh (1980) judgment decided that capital punishment should just be utilized only in the rarest of rare cases.
- However, the court has not described what characterizes the term ‘rarest of the rare’ and was left to the judgement of judges.
- Under Indian Constitution death penalty can be commutated into life imprisonment by Governor or President but pardoning can only be done by the President.
- Death was the default punishment for murder and required the concerned judges to give reasons in their judgment if they wanted to give life imprisonment instead as per Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) from 1898 till 1955.
- CrPC was amended in 1955 to remove the requirement of written reasons for not imposing the death penalty.
- High Court of the concerned state has to approve the sentencing of death penalty before it can be confirmed.
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