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Capital Punishment and Human Rights

Authored By- Anjali Rawat

Keywords: human rights, punishment, UN, Penalty.


Capital punishment means "death by hanging" and long back in 18th century B.C provided for execution for 25 different crimes, which was administered by several methods such as a) fructification; b) drowning; c) beating to death; d) burning the culprit alive; and e) public hanging

Even the Indian Judiciary made an unsuccessful plan to order the general public hanging. Consistent with the fact that execution sought to be eliminated, still 83 Countries impose capital punishment under the Indian Constitution, and it’s retained under the clause "loss of life by the procedure established by the law".


Human Rights or we will say the ‘Right to life’ may be a phrase that describes the assumption that a person’s being has an important right to measure, particularly that a person’s being has the proper not to be killed by another person. The concept of the right to life is central to the debate on the problems of execution. Nevertheless, the utilization of the execution intersects with the law of nations and it’s challenged by itself. Hence, the law of nations and analysis based on human rights are useful means to deal with the execution matters. The explanations why countries need to abolish the execution in increasing numbers vary. Defining the execution as a person’s rights problem may be a critical first way, but in some countries which resist aggressively uses the execution.

When the United Nations General Assembly considered a resolution in 1994 to limit the execution and encourage a moratorium on executions, Singapore asserted that “capital punishment isn’t a person’s rights issue”. Within the last, 74 countries stop from voting on the resolution and it failed. However, for an increasing number of countries execution may be a critical human rights matter. This resolution was strengthened in subsequent resolutions by involving a restriction of offences that the execution is often imposed and for a moratorium on all executions, leading eventually to abolition. European Union has made the abolition of execution a precondition for entry into the union, leading to the halting of executions in many eastern European countries which have applied for membership also as other countries also. Civil society is predicated upon the concept of human rights which are essential not merely to satisfy the biological needs of mankind but also for the dignity of the individuals.

Every Democratic constitution tries to acknowledge the concept of Human Rights is a method or the others. The Indian Constitution recognizes the concept of Human Rights through its preamble. Human Rights are implied as civil liberties (fundamental rights) and democratic Rights (Directive principles of state policy) within the Indian Constitution. These Rights are essential for the complete development of the human personality and for human happiness. Undoubtedly Human Rights have always been considered the backbone of each democratic found out. The right to life isn’t as inviolable because it might sound initially sight.

Retention of execution - How Far Justified?

The history of human civilization reveals that in no period of time execution has been discarded as a mode of punishment. The retention of execution in society there has some specific circumstances those that aren’t only incorrigible, but who are immensely dangerous to the society and that they commit cold-blooded murders in a calculated manner. Particularly in agricultural countries like India, the important problem of execution arises just in case of murders committed during agrarian riots and disputes concerning the possession or ownership of the land property. During this case, the offenders are cognizant of the results of their act. But they fall prey to criminality thanks to the eagerness, excitement, or anger. In fact, they are doing not conscious of the results instead of those consequences to follow. Hence, they can’t be categorized as a professional killer. Thus the cost of the homicides is thanks to ill-will, emotions, irresistible temper or manic excitement and execution serve no deterrent purpose in such cases.

Unlike formerly when death was the rule and life term the exception for a recorded reason, there should be recorded special reasons in the death sentence. Death sentences needn’t be inflicted except in the rarest of the rare case and gravest cases of utmost culpability. The point on which all one of two punishments provided for murder is the proper one in a given case will depend upon the particular circumstances of that case and the court has to exercise its discretion judiciary and on well-recognized principle after balancing all the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the crime. The Court also should see whether there is something uncommon about crime, which renders sentence of Imprisonment of life inadequate and calls for a death sentence.

In the judgment of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab[1], the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty should only be used in the ‘rarest of cases, but does not give a definition as to what ‘rarest of rare’ means. There has been a huge debate around the world over the use of the death penalty’, whether it should exist or not. Every man has a right to live. Article 21 of the Indian constitution provides to its citizens ‘protection of life and personal liberty’-no person shall be deprived of this life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This exception to life has created a dilemma across the world.

Law Commissions Report on Capital Punishment

In response to the resolution moved in the Parliament in 1962 on the abolition of capital punishment, the government of India referred the question to the law commission. The commission decided to require this subject separately for the revision of the general criminal law insight of its importance. The commission presented its report back to the Lok Sabha on November 18, 1971, during which it inter alia observed; “Even in any case the arguments in support of the abolition of execution are taken under consideration, there doesn’t remain a residuum of cases where it’s absolutely impossible to enlist any sympathy on the side of the criminal” the commission further expressed a view that retribution involved within execution doesn’t connote the not developed concept of an eye for an eye fixed but it is an expression of public anger at a shocking crime, which may better be described as reprobation. Therefore, the commission didn’t recommend any material change within the offenses which are at the present punishable with death under the Indian Penal code.

In 1961, another resolution was moved in Rajya Sabha by Savitri Devi Nigan. During this Law Commission Report of 1972 also favored the retention. It’s argued that insight of the peculiar conditions prevailing within the Country, it might be an unwise move to abolish it. However, the Commission laid down the condition that the court should give reasons before imposing this extreme penalty. Justice A. N. Mulla Committee on Jail Reforms is known to possess recommend amendment in Section 302 of the Indian legal code in order that death is prescribed together of the punishments only in cases of murder with aggravating circumstances. In other cases of murder, the committee is known to possess suggested that courts tend discretion to impose imprisonment for all times or for a shorter term. Imprisonment for all times should be of fixed-term, extension over an inexpensive period of your time which can be determined by the legislature whereas according to the India legal Code.


Human Rights or Right to life may be a phrase that describes the assumption that a person’s being has an important right to measure particularly that a person’s being has the proper to not killed by another person execution may be a highly controversial therefore the divisive issue, where they’re trying to remain neutral isn’t always easy and one wants to denounce execution as having many limits in its constitutionality. Though we analyzed many aspects of the death execution, this research is way from being exhaustive: the execution is indeed a problem too broad to research all its aspects in precise details. And yet I attempted to specialize in the most aspects of execution and in particular on those which carry irregularities and which may induce that it carries some unconstitutional points.

[1] (1980) 2 SCC 684 References-

1. United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Resolution/CN.4/1997/12(April 3, 1997)

2. Execution Information centre, http://

3. Charanjeet Singh; Human Rights in India-problems and prospects 6

4. Willam A. Schabas, The Abolition of the execution Law of nation, OUP, Oxford,1997

5. Dr. Chandrika Sharma, death sentence: Repeal or Retention Riddle(2004)PL Web Jun 22

6. 42nd and 48th Report Of the Law Commission of India 1971

7. The Indian Express, April 4, 1983