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Unconstitutionalising India’s Death Penalty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Rights in India
ISBN (Electronic)9780367178604
E-pub ahead of print24 Sep 2019

King's Authors


This chapter argues that there is an uncertain legal basis for the use of the death penalty in India in the first place because the Indian Constitution does not provide for capital punishment. A strong re-emergence in the popularity of the death penalty has taken place in the Indian sub-continent. Judges proceed in the judgment by providing a description of the offender that installs the perpetrator in the public imagination as an uncivilised savage who is beyond the pale of human society, fit only for death by hanging. The chapter suggests that populist government measures, including those introducing the death penalty for new offences, pose particular problems for the Indian judiciary, especially when enacted by the executive branch instead of the legislature. It discusses a different interpretation of the use of such luridly tendentious words expressed with staccato anger, namely, that the death penalty in India has become an instrument of coercive post-colonial legal violence.

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