The ‘Rarest of the Rare’ Doctrine’ in Awarding Death Penalty

  • Anubhav Khastagir and Pratiti Palit
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  • Anubhav Khastagir

    Student at Amity University, Kolkata, India

  • Pratiti Palit

    Student at Amity University, Kolkata, India

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The highest punishment that can be inflicted upon a person is death. Though historically, capital punishment has been used in almost every part of the world, more than 70% of the world’s countries have abolished capital punishment in law or practice in current times. Nonetheless, capital punishment presently exist in many parts of the world. The Indian Penal Code lists certain offences which prescribe death penalty as a punishment and the constitutionality of death penalty has been upheld by the Supreme Court. To pass a death sentence as a punishment to the perpetrator of a crime, a trial court relies on the doctrine of and circumstances of each case individually. Death penalty is a not a mandatory punishment and should be resorted to only if the Court is burdened with a case involving the “rarest of the rare” circumstances where death penalty is necessary to restore the collective conscience of the society. The principle of “Rarest of Rare” has its inception in the case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab and has further evolved through other landmark judgements such as Macchi Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab where the Apex Court established several guidelines for invoking the Rarest of Rare principle. However, the relevance of this principle has been put to question as most of the developed world has abolished death penalty as a form of punishment. In a modern democracy it’s of utmost importance that the mode of punishment in the criminal justice system shifts from retributive to reformative and calls for abolition of death penalty have been rising rendering the rarest of rare doctrine untenable in the 21st century’s democratic society.


Research Paper


International Journal of Legal Science and Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 4, Page 622 - 627


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