[Editorial Analysis] A case to dispose of mercy petitions swiftly

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Capital punishment
Mains level: Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary.


• Former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassin, was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special CBI court.

• Abolishing capital punishment in much country why not in India. The delay in carrying out the death penalty is one of the reasons to review India’s position on capital punishment.

• Not abolishment of capital punishment shows the lack of accountability of various officials in the government and the courts have adversely affected our criminal justice system.

India and Rare of rarest case:

• Hanging and shooting are the two methods of death penalty in India. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, hanging is the method of execution in the civilian court system. The Army Act, 1950, however, lists both hanging and shooting as official methods of execution in the military court-martial system.

• Its lists both hanging and shooting as official methods of execution in the military court-martial system.

• India has voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the use of death penalty, saying it goes against the statutory law of the country where an execution is carried out in the “rarest of rare” cases.

Why India against of Abolishing capital punishment:

• The Indian laws have specific provisions for commutation of death penalty in the case of pregnant women and have rulings that prohibited executions of persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, while juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to death under any circumstances.

• Death sentences in India must also be confirmed by a superior court and an accused has the right to appeal to a High Court or the Supreme Court, which has adopted guidelines on clemency and the treatment of death row prisoners.

• Poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” constituted new mitigating factors to be considered by courts in commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment.

• the President of India in all cases, and the Governors of States under their respective jurisdictions, have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or, to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of death penalty.

• Capital punishment is often justified with the argument that by executing convicted murderers, we will deter would-be murderers from killing people.

• The argument of justice is that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime.

Is need of hours to Abolishing capital punishment?

• A moratorium is temporary suspension of executions and, more rarely, of death sentences. It is provisional and often depends on the will of a key decision maker (President, Minister of Justice…). Conversely, abolition is permanent as enshrined in law. “The use of the death penalty undermines human dignity.

• Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is inherently cruel and irreversible. In 2007, the Philippines ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires countries to abolish the death penalty

• As of 2020, a total of 53 countries still have the death sentence, employing a variety of methods including hanging, shooting, lethal injection, electrocution and beheading.

• The use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people younger than 18 is prohibited under international human rights law, yet some countries still sentence to death and execute juvenile defendants. Such executions are few compared to the total number of executions recorded by Amnesty International each year.

• It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty is discriminatory. It is often used against
the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with mental disabilities. Some governments use it to silence their opponents.

• Capital punishment is often defended on the grounds that society has a moral obligation to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. But if, in fact, the death penalty does not deter, and we continue to impose it, we have only sacrificed the lives of convicted murderer.

• In most of the cases, death penalty can be avoided. Life imprisonment is the best alternative for the capital punishment. However the criminals, who do heinous crimes and are incapable of being reformed must be given death penalty, because they don’t deserve to live, not even in prisons.

Supreme Court interpretation 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.

• Rajendra Prasad v. State of UP 1979 case: The Supreme Court held that, 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.


• According to Amnesty International, thousands of Chinese are executed in that country every year, though such executions are classified as secret information. In 2018, Iran executed 253 convicts and Saudi Arabia executed 149.

• The lacks of accountability of various officials in the government and the courts have adversely affected our criminal justice system.

• Delays in investigations, court hearings and administrative steps to be taken after the final verdict need to be inquired into, and responsibility fixed.

• The death penalty is a legal punishment in India, and is permissible for some crimes under the country’s main substantive penal legislation, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as other laws. Currently, there are around 403 prisoners on death row in India.

• On November 17, 120 UN member states voted in favor of a resolution in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly reiterating a call for a moratorium on the use of capital punishment. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

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