Ever since the enactment of the Indian Constitution in 1950, public awareness of problems with death penalty and prevailing legal standards have evolved significantly. India is said to be one of the most liberal and open countries in the world and our constitution is a testimony to this very fact.
In dozens of countries, democratic governments in the course of conducting a major review of their national constitutions have decided to curtail, if not abolish, the death penalty. In national systems and as a matter of international law, it is increasingly recognised that the death penalty has no place in a democratic and civilised society. India is sovereign, secular, and ...view middle of the document...
During the drafting of the Indian Constitution between 1947 and 1949, several members of the Constituent Assembly expressed the ideal of abolishing the death penalty, but no such provision was incorporated in the Constitution. Of these efforts, those by Prithviraj Kapoor, a member of the Rajya Sabha, in 1958 and by Raghunath Singh in the Lok Sabha in 1962 are noteworthy.Even in the contemporary times, there has been strict oppositions against death penalty. Unfortunately, such voices are heard only when the sentence is about to be executed.
In 1974, there came into force a new CPC (Criminal Procedure Code). One of the major features of the new code was the overturning of the old ruling regarding the death penalty. According to the new code, for all offences involving murder, life imprisonment was to be the norm. The death penalty was to be awarded only in exceptional circumstances. Between 1975 and 1991, about 40 people were executed. On April 27, 1995 Auto Shankar was hanged in Salem, India. Since 1995 only one execution, that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in August 2004, has taken place.
The Article 20 of the constitution, which deals with the Fundamental Rights of life and liberty, states “No person shall be deprived of his life or liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Thus, it can be seen that the death penalty is verily upheld by the Indian Constitution. However, the same article, rather the same sentence, upholding two views at opposite ends doesn’t stand too well with the spirit of the constitution. That is, even though it is logically consistent, it is against the spirit of the Constitution.
Another important provision regarding the capital punishment is the Presidential power of pardon. This appears in Article 72 and states that “The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence….. (c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.” The objective of this article is to ensure that there be an authority beyond the Supreme Court to help the innocent if in case the Supreme Court, being a human institution has committed an error.
Provisions in the IPC
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for capital punishment for the following offences, or for criminal conspiracy to commit any of the following offences (Section 120-B):
1. Murder (s.302) and murder committed by a life convict (s. 303).(Though the latter was struck down by the Supreme Court, it still remains in the IPC)
2. Abetment of a suicide by a minor, insane person or intoxicated person (s.305)
3. Threatening or inducing any person to give false evidence resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person (s.195A)
4. Perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person (s.194)
5. Treason, for waging war against the Government of India (s.121)
6. Abetment of mutiny...