Untying the Noose – Arguing Against Capital Punishment

Untying the Noose – Arguing Against Capital Punishment

Author: Shruti Kulshrestha
IV Year | New Law College, Pune

Introduction to Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is a prevalent issue in many countries. Several people have expressed their views on it–both in favour of and against the death penalty.

Capital punishment refers to executing or sentencing someone for a punishment for the crime he has done after a legal trial[1]. Indian criminal justice system enlists various offences under which courts may award the death penalty, for example, brutal murders, violent rapes, armed robbery, narcotics-related offences etc.

Further, the 1980 Supreme Court judgment of Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab[2] established that the life sentence shall only be awarded in the rarest of the rare case. However, there is no statutory definition of the “rarest of the rare”.

In my opinion, death penalty is an unacceptable and inhuman practice. How can it decrease the crime rate? There is no evidence about the same in any country[3]. In this article, I discuss how death penalty creates a negative and a violent attitude in the society, and how it is a degrading punishment. I also make a case for the abolition of this punishment.

Why should Death Penalty be abolished?

How does killing the person who has killed or caused grievous harm to some person show that killing is wrong? Killing someone can never be a solution to any problem. Instead, we should widen our scope and look for other solutions.

Points to support my argument to abolish capital punishment are as follows:

  • Capital punishment is often justified on the basis that by executing criminals we would reduce the would-be murderers or rapists from killing people, but there is no proof which can support this basis. It’s nothing but a perception which people have in their mind. However, in reality, it doesn’t work out like that[4].
  • It is not the solution to combat recidivism as life imprisonment can also serve that purpose.
  • Further, it may lead to the execution of the innocent people. This is because the judiciary is not infallible. Sometimes an individual is imprisoned and later released. For example, in the USA, more than 160 prisoners have been sent to death row and later have been released free on the grounds of innocence[5].
  • The motive of any punishment is to teach the offender but death penalty doesn’t teach the person anything. Instead, it spread negativity in the minds of the people[6].
  • Furthermore, it is also discriminatory in nature as death penalty is imposed on people who have less advantaged socio-economic background or belong to religious minority[7]. They have limited access to legal system; thus they fail to put up a strong defense during their trial.
  • In some countries, for example, Sudan and Iran, people use the death penalty to punish political opponents. Therefore, it is more often than not used as a political tool to exercise one’s personal interests[8].
  • Capital punishment costs taxpayers more than any life imprisonment. A study found that on average a death row inmate costs $1.12 million more than a general population inmate[9].
  • Lastly, the death penalty doesn’t address the root cause of crime. Crimes happen because we neglect very common issues like mental health, education etc.[10] Hence, our focus should be to eliminate the crime and not to just serve punishments.

The Global View About Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment prevails in many countries. There are several countries which have either repealed the law or discontinued the practices of awarding capital punishment. For instance, The European Union has made abolition of death penalty criteria for its membership[11]. In Africa, out of the 54 independent states, only 13% still exercise death penalty in both law and practice[14].

In 2020, United States is the only country in the Americas to conduct executions. It clearly shows that the world is gradually, but surely moving away from the death penalty.

Despite that, over 60% of world population still lives in the countries where death penalty still exists[12]. Amnesty International stated that it recorded 657 executions in 20 countries in the year 2019.

Most of the worldwide executions take place in Asia where China is the world most active country in giving the death penalty. India executes the death penalty only in rare cases. 30 executions have been done since 1991[13].


Inhumane treatment of culprit does not change something which has already taken place; the best approach is reformatory rather than punitive. While incorporating the death penalty in the Indian constitution, many members of the constitutional assembly were against this. Nobody wants to suffer the feeling which one gets after serving a person with the death penalty, whether it is judiciary or prison staff. 

Our criminal justice system should be designed not only to punish the offenders but to provide them with rehabilitation, redemption and grace. Government kills offenders to show everyone that they are strict on crimes but there is nothing muscular about killing someone who is at your mercy. In my opinion, death penalty is outdated and harmful to mankind and it should be abolished.

[1] Capital Punishment, LEGAL DICTIONARY, (22nd October, 2020, 1:35 PM) URL: https://legaldictionary.net/capital-punishment

[2] Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898

[3] Capital Punishment does not deter/ reduce crimes, LAW ASPECT, (22nd October, 2020, 1:37 PM) URL: https://lawaspect.com/capital-punishment-does-not-deter-reduce-crimes/

[4]  Studies: Death Penalty had no Effect on Reducing Crime, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTRE, (22nd October, 1:47 PM) URL: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/studies-death-penalty-had-no-effect-on-reducing-crime

[5] Ed Pilkington, Capital Punishment, THE GUARDIAN, (22nd October, 2020, 1:50 PM) URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/death-penalty-study-4-percent-defendants-innocent

[6] Max Ehrenfreund, There’s still no evidence that executions deter criminals, WASHINGTON POST, (22nd October, 2020, 1:52 PM) URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/04/30/theres-still-no-evidence-that-executions-deter-criminals/

[7] World Day against the Death Penalty, OHCHR, (22nd October, 2020, 1:43 PM) URL: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23705

[8] Death Penalty, AMNESTY, (22nd October, 2020, 1:46 PM) URL: https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/

[9] Kimberly Amadeo, What Criminal Sentence Costs More: Death or Life in Prison, THE BALANCE, (22nd October, 2020, 1:54 PM) URL: https://www.thebalance.com/comparing-the-costs-of-death-penalty-vs-life-in-prison-4689874

[10] Marie E. Rueve and Randon S. Welton, Violence and Mental Illness, NCBI, (22nd October, 1:59 PM) URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686644/

[11] Ionel Zamfir, The Death Penalty, and the EU’s Fight Against It, EP THINK TANK, (22nd October, 2020, 2:01 PM) URL: https://epthinktank.eu/2019/02/13/the-death-penalty-and-the-eus-fight-against-it/

[12] Capital Punishment, WIKIPEDIA, (22nd October, 2020, 2:03 PM) URL: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment

[13] TARAN DEOL, ‘Rarest of rare’ – history of death penalty in India and crimes that call for hanging, THE PRINT, 22nd October, 2020, 2:05 PM) URL: https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/rarest-of-rare-history-of-death-penalty-in-india-and-crimes-that-call-for-hanging/383658/

[14] Capital Punishment, WIKIPEDIA, (22nd October, 2020, 2:03 PM) URL: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment

[15] Executions Around the World, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER, (22nd October, 2020, 2:07 PM) URL: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/policy-issues/international/executions-around-the-world

Editor: Pari Agrawal
Content Manager | Leagle Samiksha

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