Is Capital Punishment Effective?

The topic of “Capital punishment” is quite debatable. Some who are against this form of punishment take a strong stand against it by saying that what you cannot give, you have no right to take away. The others who are in favor of capital punishment support their stance by declaring the lesser the number of criminals, lesser is the crime rate. Before concluding whether capital punishment is effective or not, let us know what capital punishment is. When a person commits a crime, which is a heinous one, then according to law, he/ she shall face death as a punishment for the same. This can be put up like this –  that if the law thinks that the punishment for your crime cannot be fulfilled by life imprisonment, then capital punishment is the last option. Not only in India but in a few other countries as well, capital punishment is awarded when the crime is gruesome and not forgivable. In short, capital punishment comes into force in the rarest of rare cases. 

Just like an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, each criminal should get what he/she deserves.  So, if a person has murdered someone and has no genuine motive behind his/ her act, capital punishment is what that person should receive and nothing less than that. Genuine motive is the one where the murder takes place as an act of self-defence.   

Human behavior is not that easy to explain. As all humans are different, their actions and reactions to different things & different situations are also different. To generalize this behavior on behalf of everyone is obviously difficult. For example, some of us learn by committing mistakes.  But some understand in advance as to what consequences can their actions lead to and thus avoid committing mistakes. Both of these are not wrong, it is just different manners in which different persons behave or react. The ones who commit mistakes and learn have a life full of experiences and learnings. On the other hand, the ones who don’t commit mistakes may not regret any of their actions.  

 So just think if you know that on doing something you will be punished and that punishment can cost you your life. Won’t you be scared and refrain yourself from doing so? Of Course, you will be!  

Types of Death Penalties 

Capital punishment is of various types and is executed in different countries in different ways. Following is the list of various forms of capital punishment. 

Serial Number  Type of Capital punishment 
1  Hanging  
2  Shooting 
3  Lethal Injection 
4  Electrocution 
5  Gas Inhalation 
6  Beheading  
7  Stoning  
8  Crucification 


India follows the capital punishment in the form of hanging. Since death is given in rarest of rare cases, just imagine how horrendous the crime would have been that there is no other punishment left for the criminal.  While awarding death punishment to someone, the court has to give apt justification. It is obviously statutory since the court is taking away someone’s life. Just imagine if someone near and dear to you is murdered, may the almighty forbid that, won’t you feel that the murderer should receive an equal punishment for the crime. This is when capital punishment is effective.  

If we go back to history, the first hanging of independent India was done in the year 1949. The persons to be hanged were Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte and they were convicted for the murder of the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Let us now get a brief knowledge of the offenses that the Indian law considers gruesome and awards capital punishment if that crime is committed.  

Punishment for crimes should be such that they create fear amongst people and deter them from committing crimes. Below mentioned crimes have capital punishment as a punishment and if one looks into their details, the number of cases reported under these crimes is less in comparison to the crimes that do not have capital punishment as retribution.  

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 gives death sentence for a number of offenses. It is given for criminal conspiracy, murder, attempting to wage a war against the Government of India, abetment of mutiny, dacoity with murder and a few more like NDPS Act, anti-terrorism laws, etc. Even the armed forces aren’t spared from capital punishment. The Army Act 1950, The Air Force Act 1950 and The Navy Act 1950 punish the army personnel. The sati system has been a part of Indian society for centuries. Although it is supposed to have been abolished from our country but it is still prevalent in some areas of our nation. But if we observe nowadays there are hardly any cases related to the Sati Act. The reason behind this is very simple, people fear that if they force a woman to give up her life by Sati then this act of theirs will cost them their life. The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 is for the same. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 was created to prevent and stop the atrocities that the people of Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Castes had to face.  

Rousseau’s philosophy states that a child learns that fire is harmful only when he/ she puts his/ her hand in the same and realizes that it burns and hurts. So next time, the child will refrain from doing so. Similarly, if one criminal gets capital punishment for his/her comeuppance, this will refrain the others from committing the same crime, since they will fear the repercussion of their crime, which is death.  

Even if the person is not awarded capital punishment and suffers lifetime imprisonment instead, then it is for sure that he/she will be released from jail one day. On release from jail, it is not guaranteed that he will not commit the same crime again. Our law penalizes one for spending 14 years in jail under life imprisonment but does it work to improve the mentality of the criminal?  It is believed that spending 14 years in jail will change the criminal’s behavior and deter him from committing the same crime. It may or may not be true in all cases because we don’t have psychologists in jails who work to change the state of mind of a criminal. On the contrary, there are chances that the criminal would be frustrated and will come out of the jail prepared to revenge the 14 years he/she spent in jail.


Also, in India, the duration of punishment for a crime remains static and if the same crime is committed again and again the punishment for the crime remains the same. Let me support this with an example. If a person murders 2 people together, then if he/she is given life imprisonment, the duration of this imprisonment would be 14 years and not 28.  So, is this justified? Obviously not. He/she should be awarded capital punishment otherwise this would be a failure of our judiciary system.  

Think about the family of the people who lose the lives of their dear ones. If a person in a family is murdered by a criminal for whatsoever reason, the family would obviously want equal retribution for the criminal. This can be understood only if we keep ourselves in place of the suffering family. Won’t you want to punish the assassin in such a manner that he/she feels what your murdered kin felt? Without any doubt, yes you would want to.  

Cases that should have had capital punishment for the criminals 

  • Aruna Shanbaug Case 

      Shanbaug was a junior nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai.  On the night of 27th November 1973, while Shanbaug was changing clothes in the hospital basement, she was sexually assaulted by Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. Walmiki worked as a sweeper on contract at the same hospital. He choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her which cut out the supply of oxygen to her brain. As a consequence of this, Shanbaug suffered a brain stem contusion injury, cervical cord injury and cortical blindness. The next morning, she was discovered by a cleaner and her body was lying with blood all around it.  

     What followed this event was more horrifying. A case of robbery and attempted murder was registered against Sohanlal.  What he faced was just a seven-year jail. What she suffered was something which people wouldn’t want even their enemies to suffer. Shanbaug remained in a vegetative state for 42 years and died on 18th May 2015. Just imagine she couldn’t live her life and lied on the hospital bed just like a dead corpse.  

     So just tell me, was the amount of punishment inflicted on Sohanlal, justified? According to me, the lady was murdered, not directly but indirectly. The convict had just spent 7 years in jail, exactly one-sixth the time that Shanbaug had spent as an almost dead person on the hospital bed.  


  •  2012 Delhi Gang Rape 

This case is the one that invited nationwide outrage because of the brutality with which the crime was committed. Jyoti Singh Pandey accompanied by a friend of hers, Awindra, were returning home post watching a movie on the night of 16th December 2012 in Saket, South Delhi. The two then boarded a bus, which was already occupied by six others, including the driver, for Dwarka. The bus then deviated from its normal route and the doors were slammed shut. Obviously, an objection was made by the two passengers and this was followed by an argument and a scuffle between Awindra and the group of six.  Jyoti was then dragged to the rear of the bus and the series of horrific incidents began. First, she was beaten and made unconscious with an iron rod. She was then raped by all six of them. Post raping her, one of the criminals, a juvenile, inserted a rod in her vagina and pulled out her intestine. Both Jyoti and Awindra were then thrown out of the bus.  

While Awindra continues to live today, Jyoti is no more.  

The prime accused, a juvenile, Mohammad Afroz alias Raju, was 17 years and 6 months old at the time when he committed this crime and so was given a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment since he was convicted of rape and murder under the Juvenile Justice Act.  

The other accused were convicted and awarded death sentence although none has been hanged till date.  

Although the prime accused was a juvenile, it was because of his brutality that the chances of survival of Jyoti were nullified and she died. Just imagine the plight of the parents of the young girl who are still awaiting justice. Just put yourself in the place of her parents. What would you feel? Won’t you feel that even capital punishment is not sufficient for the barbaric crime that these criminals committed? Just think about the pain that the girl would have been undergoing before giving up on her life. No person on this earth can even imagine experiencing so much pain and she has undergone.  

Had there been a stricter law or rather capital punishment for grievous crimes committed by juveniles like Mohammad Afroz, it would act as a major deterrent. They would even fear eve-teasing the girls and would not even imagine of raping any women in our country.  

This clearly justifies the point that capital punishment is effective in most of the cases and had there been a capital punishment for the above-mentioned crimes, these cases might not have occurred. 


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