Capital punishment is the most extensive level of punishment gave to people. Capital punishment is the lawful system of the state wherein it practices its ability to take a person’s life. Before the British period, lords granted death penalties for most of the offenses. In British Era, Criminal Law Indian Penal Code was instituted after different amendments and corrections on 1 January 1860. Different chapters and sections deal with explicit offenses and give punishment to them. In all punishments, the most hazardous punishment is capital punishment. Freedom made a revolution in the legal framework of India. The provisions of IPC are enhanced by the Constitution of India and one of the provisions of capital punishments inserted. Supreme Court maintained the death penalty just the most extraordinary of uncommon cases. Presently the issue concocts Section 303 of IPC which discusses capital punishment to an individual who committed murder during life imprisonment. This section was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1983. In this blog, we will talk about the constitutionality of Section 303 of IPC.


Section 303 of IPC states that “Whoever, being under sentence of imprisonment for life, commits murder, shall be punished with death.”[1] This Section expresses that an individual who committed murder during life imprisonment will be punished with death. This section gives capital punishment to those offenders who commit murder himself but in the case of Mahabir Gobe v. State of Bihar,[2] Supreme Court held that sec 303 of IPC likewise applied on those cases in which wrongdoers sentenced under life imprisonment with either sec 302 Of IPC with section 34 (common intention) or section 149 (common object).


The reason for consideration of this section in the Indian Penal Code is to punish those wrongdoers who are convict for the imprisonment of life, and they don’t have any regret for their offense and commit more offenses of murder. For this situation, wrongdoers become more solidified, and they have no dread of anybody, so the sentence of life imprisonment was not sufficient to reform the guilty party and the convict was hardened to murder while completing that punishment, the only punishment which he merited was capital punishment.

Another reason is to save the jailer from the offender. This section likewise works like an impediment hypothesis which sets an example to other offenders if they commit this sort of crime they ought to be punished with capital punishment.


The question of the constitutionality of section 303 of IPC was brought up in Mithu Singh v. State of Punjab[3] for this situation petitioner contended that section 303 of IPC violates article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of Constitution of India.

The Constitutional bench proclaimed section 303 of IPC void and unconstitutional on the grounds that it abuses article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life personal liberty) of the Indian Constitution. The enactment accepts that life convicts are a perilous sort of humanity as a class, the court announces that the supposition that isn’t upheld by any logical information and legitimization, so will not be put outside the area of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Hon’ble court likewise said that this isn’t right to make the distinction between offenders who murder life imprisonment and the individuals who commit murder who do in life conviction. Further, no sensible differentiation between that can be made in the matter of condemning between an individual who commits murder in the wake of serving out the sentence of life imprisonment and an individual who commits murder while he is still under that sentence.

The court struck down this section in the light of the Law Commission 42nd report. As per this report, the primary object of this section was to protect the jail staff from the wrongdoers. However, there is no nexus between its object and compulsory nature.

Presently this section is as of now not in activity. If life convicts committed murder they need to confront the trial of section 302 of IPC rather than section 303 of IPC.


The Supreme Court held this section is against justice since like different sections of IPC in this section legal executives can’t utilize their discretion to decide the punishment of the accused. Section 303 removes legal prudence in awarding punishment, delivering Section 235(2) and Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure invalid and void. The above section violates the fundamental rights and the hardship of these rights would amount to injustice. The section was not as per the provisions of the Constitution.

To Be Declared Constitutional

I assess that section 303 of IPC ought to be declared constitutional after specific upgrades. As I referenced above offenders under life conviction committed murder, for this situation they become more daring, they have no dread of punishment, they have no lament of their offense, so they should be punished with capital punishment. I’m not saying capital punishment ought to be given to all offenders who committed murder while life conviction however the punishment granted to the individual who committed murder severely like cut body parts, head off, and so on.

In different sections of IPC upgraded punishment is granted for subsequent offenses like in section 75 of IPC as indicated by this section “if a person convicted a second time of an offense punishable under section XII and XVII of IPC, they get more fortified punishment than before”. Section 354 D of IPC, section 375 of IPC. Likewise, these sections, section 303 of IPC also become constitutional after certain changes.

Section 303 of IPC should not be declared mandatory, it ought to be left on the prudence of the court what sort of punishment it gives after examining the circumstances and mercilessness of crime or we can say how severely the accused killed the deceased.


Section 303 of IPC violates article 14 right to equality and Article 21 right to life and personal liberty of the Indian Constitution and the Hon’ble Supreme Court proclaimed it unconstitutional. I absolutely concur with this opinion that it can be declared constitutional after certain improvements. In this section, punishment ought to be given distinctly to those offenders who killed the deceased mercilessly or became habitual in it. The punishment ought to be passed on to the court in the wake of the circumstances of the case. Capital punishment ought to be given in rarest of rare cases in the same way capital punishment under section 303 of IPC ought to be given distinctly in mercilessness of murder.

Author’s Name: Nehal Maheshwari (Banasthali University, Rajasthan)

Image Reference

 [1] Indian Penal Code 1860, S 303 (unconstitutional)

[2] Mahabir Gobe V.State of Bihar (1963) AIR (118) SC

[3] Mithu Singh V.  State of Punjab (1983) AIR (473) SC

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