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Death penalty and why the Judges break their pen’s nip after awarding the death penalty?

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

By K.M.Barathkumar, III year B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.), SASTRA University

Death penalty in India

The execution in India is done by two methods. One is the hanging method and another one is the shooting method. Hanging is the method of execution in the Civilian Court System. Shooting and Hanging are the methods of execution in the Martial Court System. Till now 755 people were executed. The first hanged persons in Independent India are Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case on 15 November 1949. Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, no person can be deprived of his life except according to the procedure established by law. So the capital punishment is awarded only in the rarest of the rare case from the judgment of Jagmohan Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[1](1973), and then in Rajendra Prasad vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[2] (1979) followed by Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab[3](1980). In these cases, the Supreme Court held that the death penalty should be a fair, just and reasonable one. The death penalty should be awarded only in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases.


Death penalty offences in IPC:

S.No. Provision Offence

1. Sec.121 Treason and waging war against the Government of India

2. Sec.132 Abetment of mutiny committed

3. Sec. 194 Perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person

4. Sec. 195A Threatening or inducing any person to give false evidence resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person

5. Sec. 302 Murder

6. Sec. 305 Abetment of suicide by a minor, insane person or intoxicated person

7. Sec. 307(2) Attempted murder by a serving life convict

8. Sec. 364A Kidnapping for ransom

9. Sec. 376A Rape and injury which causes death or leaves the woman in a persistent vegetative state

10. Sec. 376E Certain repeat offenders in the context of rape

11. Sec. 396 Dacoity with murder

Death penalty offences in other laws

S.No Provision Law

1. Sec. 34,37 and 38(1) The Air Force Act, 1950

2. Sec. 3(1)(i) The Andhra Pradesh Control of Organized Crime Act, 2001

3. Sec. 34, 37, and 38(1) The Army Act, 1950

4. Sec. 21, 24, 25(1)(a), and 55 The Assam Rifles Act, 2006

5. Sec. 65A(2) The Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009

6. Sec. 14, 17, 18(1)(a), and 46 The Border Security Force Act, 1968

7. Sec. 17 and 49 The Coast Guard Act, 1978

8. Sec. 4(1) The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act,1987

9. Sec. 5 The Defence of India Act, 1971

10. Sec. 3 The Geneva Conventions Act, 1960

11. Sec. 3(b) The Explosive Substances Act, 1908

12. Sec. 16, 19, 20(1)(a), and 49 The Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force Act, 1992

13. Sec. 3(1)(i) The Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act, 2000

14. Sec. 3(1)(i) The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999

15. Sec. 31A(1) The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

16. Sec. 34, 35, 36, The Navy Act, 1957

37, 38, 39, 43, 44, 49(2)(a),

56(2), and 59

17. Sec. 15(4) The Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of rights of user in Land) Act,1962

18. Sec. 16, 19, 20(1)(a),

and 49 The Sashastra Seema Bal Act, 2007

19. Sec. 3(2)(i) The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

20. Sec. 3(1)(i) The Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002

21. Sec. 10(b)(i) and 16(1)(a) The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967

Why the Judges break their pen’s nip after awarding the death penalty?

The death penalty is the highest punishment given under Indian law. After awarding the death penalty the judges will break their pen’s nip. Many people wondered why Judges break the nib of the pen after awarding the death sentence. It is just a symbolic act and it is not mandatory and not law. It is not mentioned anywhere else in the I.P.C, Cr.P.C or Evidence Act that a judge has to break their pen’s nip after awarding the death penalty.

When the British ruled over India, the British judges used to break their pen’s nip after awarding the death penalty. This customary practice was followed by Indian judges till now. While awarding death sentences the judges may feel guilt and break their pen’s nip. It was also a belief that a pen which takes away a person’s life should not be used for any other purpose.

[1]Jagmohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1973 AIR 947 [2]Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1979 AIR 916 [3]Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898