Capital punishments in India

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The ongoing discussions of the hanging of Nirbhaya convicts, puts the spotlight on capital punishments in India. Capital punishments has been a widely discussed topic throughout the world.  Over 100 countries in the world have abolished capital punishments and 48 other countries have not sentenced someone to capital punishment in the last 10 years. [i]At the same time, there are convicts like China, Pakistan and UAE who frequently sentence and execute people to death.

In India, capital punishments are reserved for rarest of rare cases[ii]. Interestingly, the execution of Nirbhaya convicts is the first-time capital punishment was announced to a sexual offender. [iii] The number of sexual offenders’ sentence to death has increased with 58 sexual offenders awarded capital punishment in 2018.[iv] Overall, over the last few years, capital punishments in India have increased. This is contrast to the global scenario where sentencing to death has reduced. Like the prison system in our country, capital punishment is unfavorable towards the poor. 75% of death row convicts are economically impoverished and a majority of them lack education.[v]

The execution of capital punishments is another story. In May 2018, it was reported that only 4 executions took place in the last 13 years. [vi]Further, since 2015 not a single execution has taken place. [vii] This in violation of the wishes of the death row convicts who prefer immediate execution.[viii]The death row convicts also face horrific and inhumane prison conditions.[ix] Awaiting death under the most inhumane conditions often degrade mental health conditions.

There are many reasons why the rate of execution is so less. India uses executions for very high-profile cases which is likely to effect public opinion at large.[x] Others attribute the delay to red tapism in the jails and country’s working.

India’s low rate of execution and overall delay in execution alongside use of death sentences as political gimmicks, inhumane conditions and the poor financial backgrounds of the convicts have prompted many to ask the government to abolish death penalty.


[i] https://www.news18.com/news/india/death-penalty-debate-663250.html

[ii] Bachan Singh V. State of Punjab AIR 1980 SC 898

[iii] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/the-curious-case-of-capital-punishment-in-india/articleshow/73359520.cms

[iv] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50811366

[v] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/the-curious-case-of-capital-punishment-in-india/articleshow/73359520.cms

[vi] https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/371-indians-are-on-death-row-only-4-have-been-executed-in-13-years-118052800123_1.html

[vii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50811366

[viii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/06/india-death-row-prisoners-horrific-conditions-study

[ix] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/06/india-death-row-prisoners-horrific-conditions-study

[x] https://qz.com/india/374310/india-is-slowly-killing-its-death-row-prisoners-without-actually-hanging-them/