Contours of Justice: Human Rights and Constitutionality of Capital Punishment in India

Author: Anusha Arif

Background: Theory of Capital Punishment and Law Commission Reports

Capital Punishment involves the legal killing of a person who has committed any crime punishable by death under a legal system, such as terrorism or murder. The practice of capital punishment has existed in all nations across the world. In India, capital punishment remains a highly debatable form of punishment. Under the Indian Penal Code, offences such as murder, treason, terrorism and drug trafficking are punishable with death. However, human rights activists have consistently opposed capital punishment or the death penalty. A report published by Amnesty International (Amnesty International, 2023) highlights the reasons behind advocacy against the death penalty and gives supporting facts and figures related to the number of death penalties in the world. A total of 20 countries have executed 833 people combined in 2021, which marked a 53% increase since 2017 (Amnesty International, 2023).

In India alone, 165 death sentences were imposed by trial courts in 2022 (Menon, 2023). According to Project 39A, 539 people were living on death row; making it the highest over the last two decades. This newly revealed data has brought back into light the discussion on the validity and social acceptance of death penalty in India.