top of page

Death Penalty and Its Evolution in the Indian Legal System: A Critical Study

Updated: May 21

Authored by Mukesh Kumar Yadav, pursuing LLM at Chanakya National Law University, Patna

Death Penalty and Its Evolution in the Indian Legal System: A Critical Study
Representational Image

Death penalty or capital punishment is the highest degree of punishment that can be awarded to an individual under any penal law in force in any part of the world. Capital punishment is the legal procedure of the state in which it exercises its power to take an individual’s life. It has been in existence since the inception of the State itself. In the British era, there have been countless instances of Indians being hanged after trial or even before it. The dawn of Independence brought about a new era in the judicial system of India. It was in stark contrast to the British Judicial system in which the Indians hardly had any access to justice, or the time of empires and kingdoms before it when the ruler of a certain state or kingdom was its ultimate authority and the source of all justice wherein his or her statements verbatim, were adopted as the law of the land. The ruler, thus had the power to condemn any man to death whoever may he or she be, even on a whim[1].

After 1947, India became a democratic state, and the system of awarding death penalties too changed drastically. The Indian Penal Code in accordance with the provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India provided for awarding of capital punishment for certain specific offences.

India is one of the largest countries in the world which also has so numerous crimes and culprits and to manage with them we've a veritably strong laws in India. Discipline are given to the malefactor for every offence. One of the corrections include Capital punishment or death penalty which is very rarely given in India.

Capital punishment is a legal death penalty ordered by the court against the person for doing the most grievous and heinous offences. Prosecutions are carried out by hanging. Though in India it's given only in the rarest of the rare cases. The capital punishment in described in the Indian Penal Code and in Code of criminal procedure. Capital punishment was there in India since the very beginning and as times passed its use has been limited. It's veritably limited that after the independence no women criminal has been given capital punishment in India.[2]

Death Penalty has been laid down has penalty is various law and enactments of India such as under Indian Penal Code, 1860, -The Army Act 1950, -The Air Force Act, 1950, -The Navy Act, 1956, - The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987,- The Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 1988, and The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989.

Indian Criminal jurisprudence is based on a combination of deterrent and reformative theories of punishment. While the punishments are to be imposed to create deter amongst the offenders, the offenders are also to be given opportunity for reformation. There has been a diverse opinion regarding the death penalty in India as some are in the favour of the retention of the punishment while others are in the favour of its abolishment.

India is one of the 78 retentionist countries which have retained death penalty on the ground that it will be awarded only in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ and for ‘special reasons’. Though what constitutes a ‘rarest of rare case’ or ‘special reasons’ has not been answered either by the legislature or by the Supreme Court.[3]


[1]Death penalty in India- legal Service India available at

[2]The Death Penalty India Report (DPIR) by NLUD Project 39A : Equal Justice Equal Opportunity.

87 views0 comments

Disclaimer: The Society For Constitutional Law Discussion makes endeavours to ensure that the information published on the website is factual and correct. However, some of the content may contain errors. In the blog/article, all views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of TSCLD or its members in any manner whatsoever. In case of any Query or Concern, please reach out to us.

bottom of page