By Deepansh Shukla ~ IEHE College, Bhopal
Capital punishment which is now, abolished in 170 states of the world, will it have a future in India? As per the data available on thesun.co.uk, there are 53 states in the world which allow capital punishment one of them being India. Those 53 nations lie majorly in the Asian and African Continent. The USA, which is a world superpower, allows capital punishment. In 2018, 2,531 death sentences were reported, in the world. And in 2019, the number decreased to 2,307. As per the data of 2015, 55 million people die every year in the world. If we look at the data deaths by capital punishment as of 2019, is 0.04% of the total deaths.
With a sample size of 100 people wherein people belonging to different religions, casts, profession and gender, I conducted a telephonic or a physical interview asking about what they think about capital punishment and its future in India. Out of 100 people, 78 were of the view that capital punishment is not the right option. When I asked them to elaborate on what it means by capital punishment, the majority replied death for a crime by hanging a person. The remaining 22 were of the view that for heinous crimes like rape of a girl, terroristic act and an act which kills a whopping number of people, the punishment of death is justified. Those who were against the death punishment gave different responses. Some were of a view that torcher for life, which reminds the world what happens to the criminals committing such heinous crimes. Some were of the view, that they should be kept secluded from society and should be treated, as scum bags as a life for a life does not makes sense as you cannot bring back the dead. Those who said capital punishment is justified in some cases anonymously were of a view that slow judicial process and justice delayed to the poor accompanied by corruption. Makes it necessary to punish a criminal with death or else he/she will escape the shackles of law. My sample is not enough to justify the national trends but is enough to explain views prevalent in middle-income urban classes. The people at large believe hanging is the only way of executing capital punishment which at large shapes the general perspective.
Types of Capital Punishments –
- Lethal Injections
- Gas Inhalation
- Back Bone break( In the medieval world)
- Boiling to death ( In the medieval world)
- Burning Alive ( In the medieval world)
Deaths in the medieval era were the cruellest hence never discussed in today’s democratic world. Gas Inhalation, Beheading, Shooting being the cruellest in the 20th and 21st century. Lethal Injection is today’s time is considered, to be the most humane form of capital punishment but unfortunately is not allowed in India. From 1860 capital punishment in India got legalized for various offences under Indian Penal Code. Section 120B, Section 302, Section 121, Section 132 and Section 396 sanctions death as a punishment for criminal conspiracy, murder, waging war against the government of India, abetment of mutiny and dacoity with murder are the various offences respectively.
India and its judiciary functions based on fundamental rights. Article 21 of the Indian constitution says “No person shall be deprived, of his life or personal liberty except as according to the procedure established by law”. As per the above-quoted article, the Indian state has kept it in mind to protect the life and liberty of an individual. As in British rule, Indians were not looked upon as equals and were not given equal freedom as evident in judgements made by the colonial government and, at the time of World War 2, India faced the Bengal Famine. The law of Capital punishment was introduced by the British in colonial India. And, was retained by the independent law, of India after the independence in 1947. As per the study by National Law University, Delhi, 755 people have been executed until now. As per the estimations, most of the cases of capital punishment were, reported between 1950-1980 as a blatant misuse of capital punishment started, many who were sentenced, to death belonged to the areas of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Things changed after Bachan Singh vs the State Of Punjab on 9th May 1980. The court, in this case, stated capital punishment to be only transpire yielded, in the rarest of the rare cases. Also, the president has the power to grant mercy to the person sentenced to death. Former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in his tenure heard 35 mercy petitions and in the time being rejected 30 mercy petitions. The number of petition rejected by him is more than the combined total of his last four predecessors. He in his tenure rejected pleas varying from terror accused to the rape accused of Nirbhaya case.
Capital Punishment Future in India?
The question remains unanswered yet. If we look at the data top countries in terms of capital punishment are- Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. North Korea and China are not democratic. Hence, the validity of capital punishment does not necessarily need to derive from the constitution or judicial process. The other countries, which are Iraq and, Iran are war-torn and, Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. The other countries are in Africa, who are poor and uneducated. Compared to the counterparts which allow capital punishment, India is democratic and more progressive. Although India is poor and uneducated too, the growth in India is at par excellence. India, as per the experts, is a global superpower soon and will be a knowledge-based economy with skilled and educated youth. Only the USA, which is democratic, allows capital punishment that too after a lot of scrutinizes. Even in the USA, the first federal execution was carried, after two decades in 2020.
Is it enough to tell whether capital punishment has a future in India? No, the problems in India are multifaceted and if not taken into account would lead to disruption of justice. And, if rape is accounted to be a crime, for death punishment. As per the statistics in every 16 minutes, a rape commences in India. As per the calculation, 90 rape cases occur every day in India. There are 1440 minutes in a day, 1440/16= 90. If everyone was to be given a death sentence, in India every day, 90 people were to be hanged. If we total it for a month, 90*30= 2700 people were to be punished for death every month and 2700*12=32,400 people to be given the death penalty in a year. If murder is to be taken a close look at every hour, 4 people, in India are murdered. As per the data available which accounts to 4*24=96. the total for a month, this number becomes 2880 and, in a year, this number becomes 34,560. The execution of this large number is not feasible neither justifiable as it violates Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Also, the pending cases on the judiciary lead to a slow justice delivery which cannot work in coordination with capital punishment.
As of my analysis, keeping in mind the above data and the large population of India and its people have a progressive and liberal attitude, capital punishment does not have a future in India. Although, should remain as rarest of the rare so that when justified could be used by the judiciary.
 Samm Web, Legal Killing, Which countries have the death penalty and how many people are executed every year, Thesun.co.uk( Jul. 13th. 2020,12:40).https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2525739/countries-death-penalty-how-many-people-executed-world/
 Aditi Agrawal, Death Penalty An Overview of Indian Cases, LawOctopus.com( Sep. 4th, 2014)https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/death-penalty-an-overview-of-indian-cases/#:~:text=The%20Indian%20Penal%20Code%2C%201860,a%20punishment%20for%20various%20offenses.&text=Apart%20from%20this%2C%20there%20are,capital%20punishment%20by%20the%20President.
 Dev Gowswami, No Mercy: Pranab Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy petitions as President, Indiatoday.in( Jul. 18th, 2017. 11:38 IST) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/president-pranab-mukherjee-mercy-petitions-1025001-2017-07-18
 NCRB’s Report reveals a rape happens every 16 minutes in India; UP Tops list of Crimes against Womens, Timesnow.in (Oct. 02, 2020. 9:45 AM) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ncrbs-report-reveals-a-rape-happens-every-16-minutes-in-india-up-tops-list-of-crimes-against-women/videoshow/78440875.cms?from=mdr