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  • The Rarest of the Rare Doctrine is a half tale, part truth, but it is also a rare occurrence in the court system.
  • When it comes to capital punishment, India adopts the notion of the Rarest of the Rare Doctrine.
  • The judicial system employs the "Rarest of Rare Case" theory as a criterion for imposing the death penalty on suspected offenders who are found guilty of committing a horrific act.
  • The death penalty is neither consistently supported nor totally abolished under Indian law.


The death penalty, commonly known as capital punishment, is a serious issue of debate all over the world. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, has placed specific limitations on capital punishment and established the "rarest of rare" concept. "A sincere and enduring concern for the dignity of human life presupposes opposition to taking a life through the instrumentality of legislation," the Supreme Court wrote. That should only be done in the rarest of circumstances when the other opinion is absolutely excluded."

The Indian judiciary, on the other hand, frequently refrains from imposing capital punishment, preferring instead to impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The 'Rarest of Rare Case' theory is utilized by the judiciary in independent India as a criterion for awarding the death penalty to accused offenders who are found guilty of committing horrific crimes.


The case of Nathuram Godse v Crown, 1949 CriLJ 834. (Mahatma Gandhi's assassination) is the most well-known example of the rarest of rare natural occurrences in free India. On the night of January 30, 1948, Nathuram Godse shot Mahatma Gandhi during a prayer meeting at Birla Mandir in Delhi. Justice Amarnath condemned him to death after a lengthy preliminary hearing, and the Punjab High Court's three adjudicators unanimously supported his sentence.

The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty imposed by the trial court and upheld by the High Court against the three appellants Kehar Singh, Balbir Singh, and Satwant Singh for plotting and carrying out the murder of Smt.Indira Gandhi under sections 302, 120B, 34, 107, and 109 of the Indian Penal Code in Kehar Singh v Delhi Administration,1988 AIR 1883, 1988 SCR Supl. The Court decided that the homicide was one of the rarest of rare situations in which a professional killer and his accomplices deserved special treatment.


The case of Kehar Singh v. Delhi Administration, 1988 AIR 1883, 1988 SCR Supl. was the first to fall under the doctrine's purview after it was established in Independent India. The Supreme Court maintained the death penalty imposed by the Trial Court and the High Court on the defendants after they were found guilty of killing Smt. Indira Gandhi. The courtroom decided that the murder is one of the rarest of rare cases in which a skilled killer and his accomplices should get significant punishment. In Prajeet Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, WJC No.705 of 2015, the Supreme Court held that capital punishment is only appropriate "where a murder is done in such a cruel, hideous, devilish, repulsive, or despicable manner as to raise acute and extreme anger in the community."

The Supreme Court of India stated in Bacchan Singh vs State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898, 1980 CriLJ 636, 1982 (1) SCALE 713, (1980) 2 SCC 684, 1983 1 SCR 145 that the death penalty should be reserved for the "rarest of rare" cases; this view was favored to reduce the use of capital punishment to punish criminals; however, the legislation contradicted this view by increasing the number of crimes for which capital punishment is awarded. In the case of Bacchan Singh, the Supreme Court stated various noteworthy factors connected to misconduct and criminal activity, in which determining the level of discipline or deciding on the decision of sentence for various offenses, including one under Section 302 of the Penal Code, the court ought not to bind its thought "chiefly" or only to the circumstances associated with the specific wrongdoing, additionally give due attention to the circumstances of the criminal.

Article 21 of the Constitution declares that no one's right to life may be taken away unless it is done in accordance with the law, however capital punishment violates the law. Its implementation is always final, preventing an individual from the opportunity to profit from new evidence or legislation that may lead to a conviction being overturned or a death sentence being overturned. When the stakes are as high as life and death, we must hold our judicial system to the same high standards as our airlines. It is one of our criminal justice system's core tenets that it is preferable for many bad individuals to walk free than for one innocent person to suffer. Many people have been released from death row since the contemporary death penalty was reinstated because they were innocent. We endeavor to prevent executions and seek the abolition of capital punishment via litigation, legislation, and commutation by helping to build a renewed public outcry against this inhumane and brutalizing institution.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621, introduced a new dimension to the interplay between Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. It said that penalizing a person for an offence committed by him must pass the procedural and substantive tests of all three Articles. Later, in A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 27 a six-judge panel decided that if an accused is sentenced to any form of punitive detention or imprisonment after being convicted, it is beyond the ambit of Article 19.

The term "Rarest of Rare Case" was first used in Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab,1983 AIR 957, 1983 SCR (3) 413. The Supreme Court attempted to spell forth concrete factors on which it might be established whether a case falls within the category of 'Rarest of Rare Cases' or not.


  1. When a homicide is done in an extraordinarily terrible, despicable, repulsive, or unforgivable manner in order to evoke unusual and extraordinary anger from the network, it is referred to as a "method of homicide commission."
  2. When the victim's home is set on fire in order to prepare him for death.
  3. When a victim is subjected to heinous acts in order to bring about his or her death.
  4. When a victim's body is brutally battered or chopped apart.
  5. When the cognitive processes that lead to killing are sheer depravity and savagery, there is no justification for committing violence.
  6. The behavior is deplorable in social terms: When a homicide of a person from a backward social class is reported.
  7. When the magnitude of the crime is large, such as in the case of several killings, the enormity of the wrongdoing.
  8. When the alleged offence is preplanned and cold-blooded and committed against someone or a group who were not able to defend themselves while the commission of the offence


According to Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), no human being should be deprived of his or her life arbitrarily. It further specifies that in nations that have not abolished the death penalty, it may be used only for the most heinous crimes, in compliance with the legislation in place at the time of the commission of the offence and not in contravention of the terms of the present Covenant and the Genocide Convention. The death sentence for adolescents is specifically prohibited by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states should gradually diminish "the number of offences for which capital penalty may be inflicted, with a view to the desirability of eliminating this punishment in all nations."

The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations maintained that the death penalty should be reserved for the most serious crimes and that the scope of these crimes "shall not go beyond purposeful offences with deadly or other extremely grave consequences". The death sentence shall not be applied "for political offences or similar common offences," according to Article 4(4) of the American Convention on Human Rights.


Within the Indian judiciary, the concept of 'Rarest of Rare Cases' plays a significant role. The right to life, as established in the Indian Constitution, is accorded the highest priority. However, this does not mean that someone who has committed a horrific act is immune from punishment. The judiciary must offer legal justice to the victim, but it does not mean that the accused's rights can be violated. Following the application of this philosophy, the death penalty has become an extremely unusual punishment in our judicial system, with life imprisonment being far more common. When a case is decided in favor of capital punishment, it is a critical time for both the Court and the accused, as human life is about to be taken away on the basis of the law.

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