Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab 1982 3SCC 24

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab 1982 3SCC 24: Case Study

Before the Supreme Court of India
AIR 1980 SC 898, 1980
Bachan Singh 
State of Punjab
Date of Judgement
16 Aug. 1982
Justice Y. V. Chandrachud; Justice A. Gupta; Justice N. Untwalia; Justice P. N. Bhagwati; Justice R Sarkaria and Justice A.C. Gupta

Facts of Case

One Bachan was tried and convicted and sentenced to death under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the mueder of Desa Singh, Durga Bai and Veeran Bai. The death penalty imposed on him was confirmed by the High Court. Appealing by Special leave, he (along with other prisoners) cha;;enged the constitutional validity of the death provided in the section and the sentencing procedure provided in section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.  


It was argued by the Appellant that the imposition of death penalty under Section 302 of IPC, read with  Section 354(3) of the CrPC was arbitrary and unreasonable because (a) it was cruel and inhuman, disproportionate and excessive, (b) it was totally unnecessary and did not serve any social purpose or advance any constitutional value and (c) the discretion conferred on the court to award death penalty was not guided by any policy or principle laid down by the legislature but was wholly arbitrary.  

On the hand, the same was defended by the State that the question of constitutional validity of the death penalty has stood concluded by the decision of a Constitution Bench of five Judges in Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P. (AIR 1973 sc 947) and it could not therefore be allowed to be re-agitated. It was also submitted that (a) death penalty was neither cruel or inhuman, neither disproportionate nor excessive, (b) it did serve a social purpose inasmuch as it fulfils two penological goals namely, denunciation by the community and deterrence and (c) that the judicial discretion for the purpose of guiding the exercise of its discretion in this punitive area.  


  • Whether death penalty provided for the offence of murder in Section 302, Indian Penal Code, 1860 is unconstitutional?
  • Whether the Facts found by the lower Courts would be considered “special reason” for awarding the death penalty as is required under Section 354(3) CRPC?

Cruelty and Dowry Death – Explanation with Case Laws


The Apex Court dismissed the challenge to the constitutionality of Section 302 of IPC in so far as it provided for the death sentence and also the challenge to the constitutionality of Section 354(3) of the CrPC.   The Court propounded the principle of  “rarest of rare cases” in awarding of the death penalty wherein it was stated by the Court that a real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulated a resistance to taking a life through law’s instrumentality.

However, that ought not to be done save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed. Therefore the constitutionality of the provisions imposing death penalty upheld.


In present case Supreme Court lay down specifically that the death penalty must be restricted to and given in “rarest of the rare cases”. 


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