Judges must not be swayed in favour of death penalty

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Judges must not be swayed in favour of death penalty

  • The judgment came by a three-judge Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.
  • The court commuted the death penalty of the convict to life imprisonment.
  • The Supreme Court said not to prescribe the death penalty with an eye only on the abhorrence of the crime.
  • Factors that can help the prisoner keep his life, should also be considered.
  • Justice Maheshwari referred to penology and said it had grown to accommodate the philosophy of ""preservation of human life"".


  • Capital punishment or the death penalty is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law for a criminal offence.
  • Capital punishment is distinguished from extrajudicial executions carried out without due process of law.
  • It is based on the principle of retributive justice.
  • Supporters of the death penalty argue that the death penalty is morally justified when applied in murder especially with aggravating elements.

Arguments: In Favour of the Death Penalty

  • Retribution: One of the key principles of retribution is that people should get what they deserve in proportion to the severity of their crime.
  • This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime.
  • Deterrence: Capital punishment is often justified with the argument that by executing convicted murderers, we will deter would-be murderers from killing people.
  • It is often argued that the death penalty provides closure for victims' families.
  • There are many examples of persons condemned to death taking the opportunity of the time before execution to repent, express remorse, and very often experience profound spiritual rehabilitation.

Arguments: Against the Death Penalty

  • Non-effective: The statistical evidence doesn’t confirm that deterrence works.
  • Some of those executed may not have been capable of being deterred because of mental illness or defect.
  • Death has been prescribed in rape cases since 2013 (Sec. 376A of IPC), still, rapes continue to happen and in fact, the brutality of rapes has increased manifold. This compels one to think of the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.
  • Execution of the Innocent: The most common argument against capital punishment is that sooner or later, innocent people may get killed, because of mistakes or flaws in the justice system.
  • Capital punishment doesn't rehabilitate the prisoner and return them to society.
  • Band-Aid solution: It is more of a Band-Aid solution and populist approach – instead of identifying the cause and working towards a more effective solution.

Supreme Court on the Death Penalty

  • Jagmohan Singh v. State of UP 1973 case: The Supreme Court held that according to Article 21 deprivation of life is constitutionally permissible if that is done according to the procedure established by law.
  • Thus the death sentence imposed after a trial in accordance with legally established procedures under Cr.PC and the Indian Evidence Act is not unconstitutional under Art. 21.
  • Rajendra Prasad v. State of UP 1979 case: If the murderous operation of a criminal jeopardizes social security in a persistent, planned and perilous fashion then his enjoyment of fundamental rights may be rightly annihilated.
  • Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab 1980 case: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court propounded the dictum of ‘rarest of rare cases’ according to which death penalty is not to be awarded except in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.
  • Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab 1983 case: The Supreme Court laid down certain considerations for determining whether a case falls under the category of rarest of rare cases or not.


  • Deterrence is most effective when the punishment happens soon after the crime.
  • The more the legal process distances the punishment from the crime - either in time, or certainty - the less effective a deterrent the punishment will probably be.
  • There is a need to expedite investigations at the hands of a well trained and equipped police system ably supported by fast track trials to reinforce the faith of the public in our legal system.