The term ‘heinous’ has not been defined particularly under Indian Penal Code, 1860. This term had been interpreted by the judges in various judgements.
Crimes are always not necessarily heinous in nature. When an individual does any crime the intention is a lot, in that case, the person who commits the crime sometimes they are not the real criminals rather they are being influenced by other people in order to reach their target. One thing that needs to be observed and pondered upon is that the criminals are not born as criminals or rebellious; it is the society we people who make them like that. Those who do heinous crimes are not the people who commit those crimes for the first time, they must have already done various crimes earlier and had escaped from the eyes of the law or appropriate authority or otherwise, the case may be such that they had not got the appropriate punishment as per the crime done by them.

There are mainly four types of punishment according to the theories:-
1. Deterrent theory
2. Retributive theory
3. Preventive theory
4. Reformative theory

So, during an earlier period, India used to follow the deterrent theory of punishment where the person who does the crime is used to be punished in the same way as with the same intensity. Whereas, as time is passing India is moving towards the reformative theory. Now, India totally follows the reformative theory. Reformative means where the criminal is given punishment in accordance with the crime. This crime is not only decided for punishing but also for teaching the lesson and making the person understand that not to do the crime again otherwise, the consequences would be like this only.
When any criminal is given a death sentence in that case, the whole of the responsibility is on the state for that crime and the state is left to decide the matter. It could be observed on this basis that, here as the state gives the death sentence in only two types of cases as mentioned below, where the state is using deterrent theory which is no more in existence in today’s India. Giving death to the criminal will never change the thinking and the mindset of the people who do these types of crimes. These people need to be punished with the appropriate punishment which would result in some positive change in them.
With respect to, giving the death penalty as a punishment for heinous crimes had been dealt in various cases. It had also been decided through various judgements that, whether giving capital punishment or death penalty is right or not. Giving the death penalty to the individual is not a small thing. Pronouncing any judgement which changes the life of the person completely is very responsible work to do.
In India, the death penalty is either decided in rarest of the rare cases or in the cases where every punishment had been exhausted.

According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution it had been mentioned that every individual has the right to life with dignity, this means that merely being alive without any reason and a motive is not life. So, here also when the person is given capital punishment that an individual is deprived of its rights.
In my view giving capital punishment is not a proper solution for punishing the criminal. Rather they should be given the treatment for changing their behaviour and mind. Some become criminals because of their traumatic past or by being in any particular aggressive situation. Capital is given in India in rarest of the rare cases where the person can appeal to the High Court and then-Supreme Court, according to the hierarchy. And even then also if the person is not satisfied, one can go to the President and the final verdict will be from there. So, these types of cases are handled with too much care and attention but then also criminals should not be given the death penalty. Giving death penalty leads to the end of the life of the individual but nothing changed in the society rather there is no effect on the people who do these types of crimes and they continue to do so.


Harshika Agrawal
Amity University Mumbai