From the medieval ages, crime and punishment have gone hand in hand. Punishment is seen as an effective method of teaching a lesson to the person who commits the crime as well as to others who contemplate committing a crime. The crimes that were given the ultimate judgement of the death penalty were known as capital crimes and the sentence was called as capital punishment.
Derived from the Latin word capitalis, which meant regarding the head, capital punishment literally meant severing the head from the body. Death penalty was reserved for the most offensive crimes that deserved the toughest punishment.
Over the centuries , the measure of crime has varied in different nations. Murder, war crimes like terrorist activities are drug related offenses are some of the crimes that are given death penalty in different countries. Executions have been abolished in many countries on humanitarian grounds. However, in countries like China, India and the United States, capital punishment is still legal.
In India, the death penalty is issued very rarely. The Supreme Court in India gave a ruling in 1983 that stated that capital punishment would be given only in ‘the rarest of rare’ cases. Though the death penalty is legal in our country , it has rarely been recommended in the recent past. However, in rare cases, like the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai which shook the nation, the lone terrorist who was arrested, Ajmal Kasab was given the death for waging war against the country. There are some cases where mercy petitions can be filed which can only be granted by the President of India.
The method of execution varies from country to country. While earlier, executions were often brutal and public, nowadays they are conducted in less painful and humane ways. More and more countries are devising alternative methods of punishing serious offenders for humane reasons.
Capital punishment is a sentence that has been in practice since ages. It is the country’s and the court’s prerogative on how and why they use it or desist from using it.