January 23, 2022

Case Brief: Bachan Singh v State of Punjab

In Bachan Singh v State of Punjab, Constitutional Validity of Death Sentence under Indian Penal Code, 1860.

CITATION : AIR 1980 SC 898: 1982(1) SCALE 713: (1980) 2 SCC 684: (1983) 1 SCR 145

JUDGES : Y.V Chandrachud, C.J and A.C Gupta, N.L Untwalia, P.N Bhagawati and R.S Sarkaria, J.J.

DATE OF DECISION : 09-05-1980

TOPIC : Constitutional Validity of Death Sentence


Bachan Singh , the appellant in this case was tried and convicted and also sentenced by the Sessions Judge to death u/s 302 of IPC 1860 for the murder of Desa Singh, Durga Bai and Veeran Bai. The Hon’ble High Court confirmed his death sentence and dismissed his appeal.[1] He appealed to the Supreme Court by special leave petition.[2] A bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Sarkaria and Kailasam, JJ. heard the appeal and directed the records of the case to be submitted to the Hon’ble Chief Justice, for constituting a larger bench to resolve the question of constitutional validity of death penalty for murder provided in sec 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the sentencing procedure embodied in sub-section (3) of section 354 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


Constitutional validity of death penalty for murder provided u/s 302 of IPC and the sentencing procedure embodied in sub-section (3) and of section 354 of Crpc,1973.


The challenge to the constitutionally of the impunged provisions contained in Sec302 of IPC, 1860 and 354(3) of CRPC,1973 is valid.[3] There are numerous other circumstances justifying the passing of the lighter sentence as there are countervailing circumstances of aggravation. All such situations cannot obviously feed into judicial computer since they are astrological imponderables in an imperfect and undulating society.[4] A real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking a life through LAW instrumentality. That ought not to be done save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed. Sec 354(3) mandates the Court convicting a person for an offence punishable with death or; in the alternative with imprisonment for life or imprisonmnent for a term of years not to impose the death sentence on that person unless there are “special reasons” to be recorded for such sentences. The expression “special reasons” in the context of this provision, obviously means “exceptional reasons” founded on the exceptionally grave circumstances of the particular case related to crime.


In 1980, the Supreme Court by a majority of 4 :1 reaffirmed its earlier decision and held that the provision of death penalty as an alternative punishment for murder u/s 302 insofar is neither unreasonable nor it is against the public interest. It violates neither the letter nor the ethos of Art 19 of the Constitution of India. It is constitutionally valid. Exercise of discretion u/s 354(3) of CRPC, 1973 should be in exceptional and grave circumstances and imposition of death sentence should only be in rarest of rare cases.

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[1] https://www.scribd.com/document/321689554/Juris-FD

[2] https://www.scribd.com/document/213242444/bachan

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/122892663/

[4] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-rationale-behind-the-death-penalty

Author Details: Upasana Borah (4th year student, N.E.F Law College, Guwahati)

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