A number of dynasties have risen and fallen with the course of centuries. But in order to administer justice, the use of death penalty was common. Though the termination of death penalty was protested by many organizations yet it is practiced in different countries. Capital punishment or death sentence has been prescribed as a crime against humanity in the Charter of Rights by the UN and also requested its members to terminate the same. However, India being one of its member has still not abolished the death penalty even though under the Article 21, the Constitution of India has stated that the government has no right to take away an individual’s life. As a result, the international stand of India on the death sentence both at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly has always been against the resolution that stating that is goes against the country’s law statues where an in the rarest of rare cases, a capital punishment is carried out.

Crimes Punishable by Death Penalty in India:

  • Murder- Murder is regarded as an offence to be punishable under the Article 302. A death sentence can be awarded to a group involved in robbery and in the process even one member commits murder, when an individual is abducted in exchange of ransom and the person gets killed, being engaged in any unlawful association or criminal activities which results in an individual’s death as well as the act of assisting and committing Sati, under all these situations one shall be punished with death penalty.
  • Rape- Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, a rapist who during the course of crime causes the victim’s death or the victim is left in the vegetative state of persistent shall be held punishable. Capital punishment shall be imposed for rape of girls below 12 years and punishment also includes a minimum imprisonment of 20 years including fine.
  • Offence related to terrorism- Any unlawful act involving the usage of any sort of special category of explosives which is probable of causing imperil to human life or property is considered as an death penalty offence.
  • Abduction- The act of kidnapping is also punishable under law even if the kidnapper only threatens to cause harm to the victim.
  • Treason- The act of attempting to wage or carrying on a war in opposition to the government, soldiers, Army or Navy members or even Air Forces in committing mutiny are liable to be punished under death penalty.

In India, the rate of execution have decreased significantly in the past 20 years. The Article 21 of the Indian Constitution assures its citizens the right to life as well as personal liberty including the right to live with dignity. As stated in the article, no person shall be impoverished of his personal liberty and life except in accordance to the established law procedure. This implies that an individual’s personal liberty and life can only be argued if that individual commits a crime. Therefore, by means of public order and law, the state can curtail or take away the right to life following the law established procedure.

However, in India, a number of NGOs are fighting in opposition to the cruel and inhuman punishment and perseverance of human rights. Although judiciary has evolved the principle of “rarest of rare cases” and has indicated that it is with special reasons that death penalty must be imposed in cases of exceptional and aggravating circumstances where offenses are very grave in nature, the application of the principle itself, as evident from a plethora of cases, is in violation of Constitutional provisions. According to Justice V.R. Iyer who was against the death penalty, God has given us life and thus, He only has the right to take it away. The state has no right to take away any individual’s right to life. This is mere inhumanity from the State’s side. Thus, the death penalty procedure must be prescribed as an offense in opposition to human rights as well as it is unconstitutional. It must be taken into consideration by the government, the negative aspects of sentencing to death and must take steps to delete such provisions relating to death sentence away from the law. Although actual executions of convicts punished with death penalty are decreasing in number, yet a lot has to be done to fasten the procedure for those waiting on death row and also comply with India’s international commitments.