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Abolition of the Death Penalty

Mar 25, 2023

Abolition to death penalty

Our today's edition of Current Affairs is here. Read to know more about Abolition of the Death Penalty. Also, find the topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus below

For Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance

Law Commission of India Report, Supreme Court, Electrocution, Abolition of the Death Penalty

For Mains: GS Paper II ( Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability.

The death penalty by hanging, Law Commission of India Report)

Various methods of Executions, Should the death penalty be removed?, Supreme Court’s stand, Death Penalty should stay, Death Penalty should be abolished


According to the Supreme Court, a different method of execution that is "more consistent with human dignity" and less painful than hanging by the neck to carry out the death sentence can be declared unconstitutional.

  • Both the concept of the death penalty and the practice of hanging have received support from the judicial and administrative communities. 
  • The Bench has been looking for new evidence to support the claim that a more humane method of execution can be found.

Various Methods of Executions

  • The most popular method of execution is hanging. 
  • However, many countries use lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, etc for execution.

Should the Death Penalty be Removed?

  • In finding an alternative to execution by hanging, the apex court has rekindled the old debate- should the death penalty be abolished?
  • Finding a less painful and less cruel method of execution has been discussed as part of the larger discussion of whether or not the death penalty should be abolished.

Supreme Court’s Stand

  • The Supreme Court has not supported abolition, but despite this, it has established a strong and compassionate body of law that makes it challenging for the executive to carry out death sentences. 
  • It has limited its application to the "rarest of rare cases," required weighing aggravating and mitigating factors prior to execution, and permitted a post-appeal review hearing in open court. 
  • In addition, a clemency jurisprudence has developed that makes decisions regarding mercy petitions justiciable and punishes excessive delays in handling mercy requests by commuted death sentences to life in prison.

Arguments Favoring the Abolition of the Death Penalty:

  • The death penalty has been an established idea since the dawn of civilization.
  • By imposing the harshest punishment possible, such as the death penalty, future crimes may be prevented.
  • The death penalty is only applied in extremely rare circumstances, and the offender has the option of submitting a petition for mercy.

Arguments Against the Abolition of the Death Penalty:

  • The death penalty has been abolished in the majority of civilized nations.
  • The death penalty has many flaws. 60 death sentences were handed down by the Supreme Court between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2015. It later acknowledged that it had made mistakes in 15 of them (or 25%).
  • The death penalty deters murder more than life in prison, according to no study. 
  • The poor and marginalized are unfairly targeted by the death penalty. Those without the death penalty are punished. Poor prisoners receiving legal aid benefit most from it, whereas others with private attorneys don't. 
  • The severity of the punishment must coexist with the certainty and promptness of the punishment for deterrence to be effective.  Terrorism, murder, or even theft have not been deterred by the death penalty. 
An Anecdote:
For more than a century, stealing in England carried the death penalty, and spectators at public hangings frequently had their pockets searched.

No one wants to experience the trauma of carrying out the death sentence, not the higher courts nor the helpless prison staff who must witness a person gasping at the end of a rope. To demonstrate that they are tough on crime, governments murder prisoners. Killing a man who is at your mercy is not a manly or tough act.

Also read: Reforming Death Penalty- UPSC Current Affairs


  • The Law Commission recommended the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes, with the exception of war crimes and offenses related to terrorism, in its 262nd Report.
  • In Bachan Singh vs. the State of Punjab (1980), the apex court upheld the death penalty, but limited it to the ‘rarest of rare cases’.
  • The facts mentioned above make it abundantly clear that the death penalty is inhumane and immoral. The phrase "the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water" does not imply that it should be abolished, though. As per the current trend, it should be used in the rarest of rare cases.

Source The Hindu


Frequently Asked Questions about Abolition of the Death Penalty

Is the death penalty abolished in India?

Despite detractors who claim there is no evidence to support this claim, many people believe the death penalty is necessary to deter people from committing serious crimes. Executions are still legal but rarely carried out in India.

Why is the death penalty abolished in India?

The death penalty is incompatible with respect for human rights and dignity. The most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life, is violated by the death penalty.

What is the abolition of the death penalty?

The removal of the death penalty is a highly symbolic action that emphasizes the applicability of human rights to all people. The death penalty is not an effective tool in the fight against crime. It results in irreparable loss of life, and all legal systems are susceptible to injustices.

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