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DATA STORY : Death Penalty in India

  • Published
    27th Apr, 2022

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.

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.

Art. 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees to every citizen the fundamental right to life, also expressly states, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law." This means that under no circumstances your right to live will be taken away from you except by the due procedure established by law, that is the state can take away your life through the given process of law if it deems fit. Not all offences are punishable by death, in fact, most of the agencies do not elicit capital punishment; instead, it is only reserved for the most heinous of crimes.

The constitutional validity of the death penalty has been challenged many times. It was first challenged in Jagmohan v. State of Uttar Pradesh in which the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld its validity
stating that the capital punishment itself was not unreasonable per se and neither was its abolition in the public interest and hence not violative of the Art. 19 of the Constitution. It has been challenged many times since but the decision has remained the same.

This data story aims to highlight the statistics with respect to death penalties in India.

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