Capital Punishment and Human Rights

Capital punishment is a legal process where a person when proved guilty of committing a heinous crime is sentenced to put death by the state. In India, capital punishments are given in the rarest of rare cases. There are certain movements started by the Human Rights that oppose the giving of capital punishments as they consider it as a violation of the right to life of an individual. Out of all the countries in the world, only 58 of them including India actively practice capital punishments whereas the other 95 countries have abolished.[1]n India, if any person is given a sentence of the death penalty by the court of law then only the President has the authority to suspend his execution. There are various crimes where the offenders get the death penalty and there is also a category where even if the person has committed a heinous offense, they are not given capital punishments.


“I think life is sacred whether it is abortion or the death penalty.”

Tim Kaine

Capital Punishment

  • The death penalty also known as Capital Punishment is a legal process where a person who is proved guilty of committing a heinous crime is sentenced to put to death by a state. The offenses that end up resulting in capital punishment are known as capital crimes.
  • Capital punishments are being used for many years by almost every society to punish the guilty for some heinous crimes such as murder, terrorism, etc. There are several countries where a person is sentenced to death for committing sexual crimes such as rape. Out of all the countries in the world, only 58 of them including India actively practice capital punishments whereas the other 95 countries have abolished it.
  • Capital Punishment is practiced in countries like the United States of America, China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nigeria, Afghanistan, etc.[2]
  • Capital Punishment is a process that includes the death of a person for the crime or offense given by the court of law.
  • Out of all the punishments provided under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 the death penalty is the most brutal form of punishment to be given to any convict.

Human Rights

  • Human Rights are defined as those rights which are inherent to all human beings irrespective of their gender, nationality, place of residence, sex, ethnicity, religion, or any other categorization. We can also call the Human Rights as the non-discriminatory rights because they are entitled to all human beings without any exception.
  • Human Rights are the rights that are based on an individual’s dignity, equality, and mutual respect irrespective of the person’s nationality, religion, or beliefs.
  • Though all human beings are entitled to Human Rights, not everyone is privileged enough to experience them equally as there are people who exploit the rights of others.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)[3] is said to be a milestone document in the history of human rights. This document was drafted by the representatives belonging to the different legal and cultural backgrounds from all the regions of the world. It was proclaimed on 10th December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. It includes the fundamental rights which have to be followed universally. It includes 30 Articles, each of which defines the rights provided to every human without any discrimination. This document has been translated into about 500 languages.
  • The National Human Rights Commission of India is a body that is statutory and public. This body was constituted on 12th October 1993. The NHRC was constituted on 28th September 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance. The NHRC is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights.[4]

There always have been several debates all around the globe whether capital punishments should be given or should they be abolished. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives the right to live to every Indian citizen. This right has created a dilemma worldwide. Whenever a person commits heinous crimes, for example- rape the people of the country wants nothing but only capital punishment for his inhuman act but there is always a side where the judiciary talks about the human rights of the convict which somehow ends up with a sentence of life imprisonment. There have been cases where the court of law has sentenced the death penalty but the process has been so long that it takes years to finally get the convict punished, this is one main reason why people are losing their hope when it comes to the Indian judiciary.

What if a person murders or rapes someone, do they lose the right to live or is the death penalty the real justice that can be given to the family of the victim? Many such questions have been asked all the time. Crime rates have not lessened even in the countries that practice capital punishment.

 In India, a person has sentenced the death penalty in the most horrifying offenses and the President has the authority to suspend the capital punishments.

In India, the main reason behind giving capital punishments to any convict is based on two things:

  1. The person who has committed the crime should suffer
  2. Such serious punishments will create a threat in the public and eventually it will discourage others from committing such heinous crimes.

If we see the data of the last 10 years then one can notice that the Indian Judiciary has condemned a total of 1303 individuals to death yet just 4 have been hung till death in the entire decade. According to the human rights movements, capital punishments are immoral as they are an infringement of a person’s rights. The Indian Criminal Jurisprudence is based on the combination of two theories, which are:

Reformative Theory

According to this theory, you cannot cure or mend any damages by killing a person. The main objective of this theory is to bring changes in both the character as well as the personality of the convict/ offender so that he can become a responsible member of the society.

Preventive Theory

According to this theory, it is better to prevent the wrongful acts rather than later thinking about the cures of the damages caused. The main objective of this theory is to prevent the crime by disabling it through imposing capital punishment, that is, the death penalty.

Chapter III of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 53- 75)[5] has set out the general arrangements that identify the death penalty. The IPC, 1860 has also accommodated a reviewed arrangement of punishment to suit the different classes of wrongdoing relying on the gravity of the offense.

Methods for providing Capital Punishment all over the world

In the present times, the ancient methods of providing capital punishments are abolished and there has been an evolution of many new techniques that are adopted. The new techniques help in reducing the physical pain that the offender experiences while dying.

Certain methods have been adopted for providing capital punishment, they include:

  1. Hanging
  2. Beheading
  3. Stoning
  4. Lethal Injection
  5. Shooting by the firing squad
  6. Shooting
  7. Electrocution
  8. Gas chamber
  9. Falling from an unknown height

Methods for providing Capital Punishment in India

Two popular methods are used in India for providing capital punishment. They are:


In India usually, all the executions are carried out by hanging the criminal till death. The first person to be hanged till death in Independent India was Nathuram Godse who assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The Supreme Court of India suggested that the death penalty punishment will be given in the rarest of rare cases.


Two Acts provide the provisions and methods for sentencing capital punishments. Those acts are:

  1. The Army Act, 1950
  2. The Air Force Act, 1950

Crimes associated with Capital Punishment

Aggravated Murder

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides that a person who commits murder shall be sentenced death penalty.

Other offenses resulting in death

Concerning the IPC, 1860 death penalty is given to those individuals who end up murdering during a furnished theft.

Terrorism – related offenses not resulting in death

The individual or a group or any institution that uses any such explosive or performs any such activity which results in a blast that can cause harm to people at large and property to deserve the death penalty.

Rape not resulting in death

According to the Criminal Law Act, 2013 any person who conflicts injuries in rape, because of which he passes on might also be granted capital punishment.

In the cases of Gang Rapes, the convicts are punished with capital punishment.

According to the Criminal Law Ordinance, 2018, an individual who rapes a young lady under the age of 12 might be given life detainment.

Kidnapping not resulting in death

According to Section 364 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, grabbing not bringing about death is an offense deserving of the death penalty.

Drug trafficking not resulting in death

An individual who is involved or commits any drug trafficking offenses then he/she can be condemned to death.


Any individual who attempts to stand against the administration and take-ups arms and helping Navy, Army, or the officials of the Air Force to submit any sort of revolt will be rebuffed by the capital punishment.

Military offenses not resulting in death

Any official belonging to the Army, Navy, or Air Force if commits an offense of assault, mutiny, and other such offenses then he or she will be liable to be punished by the death penalty.

  • Other offenses not resulting in death
  • If a person belongs to a group or an institution that is planning a criminal conspiracy to commit a capital offense then such a person will be awarded the death penalty.
  • Any individual who attempts to kill a living convict is punishable by capital punishment if the victim gets injured in that attempt.
  •  If any individual provides false evidence against an innocent person with having prior knowledge that such evidence can get an innocent person the punishment of death penalty, and if because of such an act an innocent person’s execution is done then the person who provided fake evidence will be liable and punished with the death penalty.

Certain offenders are excluded from capital punishment. Such people are:


According to the Indian laws, if any person is below the age of 18 at the time of commitment of the crime then they shall not be liable for capital punishment.

Pregnant woman

There has been an alteration made in the year 2009 and according to that clemency must be conceded to a pregnant lady who is condemned to capital punishment.

Intellectually disabled

According to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 any individual who was rationally sick or cannot comprehend that the performing of such activity is unsafe while committing a heinous crime cannot be rebuffed by the death penalty.


The abolishment of Capital Punishments will always be a debatable topic in all those countries where it is practiced. But I strongly believe that if a person causes grave harm to any individual or the public at large then he/she should be given the death penalty to save the other people from such inhuman monsters. People committing the offense of rape, murder, terrorism, and other related crimes should be given capital punishments. Although giving death penalties it won’t bring back the person who is dead but by providing such punishments the crime can be prevented. I believe that if there is an abolishment of the death penalty then the crime rate will increase.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Define capital punishments.
  2. Is capital punishment important?
  3. Which offenders are excluded from capital punishment?
  4. Define human rights.
  5. Discuss the crimes that are associated with capital punishment.


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