Death Penalty

Death Penalty

Context: The President rejected the mercy petition of the Red Fort attack convict, and the President’s decision can be challenged to prolong proceedings. SC has previously commuted death sentences in cases of inordinate delays in deciding mercy petitions.

• Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India (2014): SC commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts due to the inordinate delay in deciding their
mercy petitions, terming it a violation of their fundamental rights.

Death Penalty in India

• The death penalty (capital punishment) is the highest form of punishment awarded for the most heinous
crimes. In India, it is awarded in the “rarest of rare” cases, as per the SC guidelines.

Legal Aspects

• The IPC prescribes the death penalty for several offences, including:
• Section 121: Waging war against the Government of India; Section 132: Abetment of mutiny.
• Section 194: Perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person.
• Section 302: Murder; Section 305: Abetment of the suicide of a minor or an insane person.
• Section 307 (2): Attempted murder by a life convict; Section 364A: Kidnapping for ransom.
• Section 376A: Rape causing death or leaving the woman in a vegetative state.
• Section 376E: Certain repeat offenders in the context of rape; Section 396: Dacoity with murder.

Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provides the procedural framework for awarding the death penalty.

• Section 354(3): Requires a judge to provide special reasons for awarding the death sentence.
• Section 366: Mandates the confirmation of the death sentence by the High Court.
• Section 368: Specifies the procedure for executing the death sentence.

The important legislation which prescribes the death penalty is:

• The Arms Act, 1959
• The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
• The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
• The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, etc.

Supreme Court Judgements

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1980

• SC upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty but established important guidelines.
• The court emphasised that the death penalty should only be awarded in the “rarest of rare cases” when all alternative options are exhausted and mitigating circumstances have been considered.

Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab, 1983

• SC laid down five categories of cases where the death penalty could be awarded:
• manner of commission of murder, (b) motive for the crime, (c) anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime, (d) magnitude of the crime, and (e) personality of the victim.
• The Law Commission of India (262nd Report)), recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war.

DICS Branches

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