Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the punishment for murder. Murder is an evil act. No one has the right to take another person’s life. For this serious crime, the murderer should be punished with life imprisonment or the death penalty. Killing someone is a terrible thing that a person does.

Section 302 of IPC and its scope

Section 302 Indian Penal Code says about the punishment of the offender who is guilty of committing murder. This Section states that whoever has committed murder shall be punished with either imprisonment for life or the death penalty along with a fine, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. The intention and motive of the accused are important factors in murder cases.

The Indian Penal Code provides punishment for murder under Section 302. Section 302 states that whoever commits murder is punished with:

  • Death, or
  • Life imprisonment, and
  • The offender will be liable to pay a fine.

 The offence is non-bailable, cognizable, and triable by the Court of Sessions.



  • The intention of causing death should be there.
  • The act must be done with the knowledge that the act may or is likely to cause the death of another
  • The intention must be to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death

Punishment for Section 302 IPC

Death Penalty

In India, the death penalty is given in the “rarest of the rare” cases. Nevertheless, there are certain hideous crimes for which there is no other alternative than capital punishment. The death penalty is one of the oldest forms of punishment, where the offender is executed under due process of law.

Life imprisonment

Life imprisonment means the offender has to spend the rest of his life in prison. Life imprisonment is awarded to a person who committed some serious kind of offence like murder. Life imprisonment also has a marked effect on the minds of the offenders, though it is not as grave as capital punishment.


The Indian Penal Code under Section 302 states that a person committing murder is liable to pay a fine along with a death sentence or life imprisonment. The amount to be paid totally depends on the seriousness of the crime. A fine is also used as a punishment for minor crimes like fraud, gambling, embezzlement, etc. Therefore, the court decides the amount of the fine depending on the magnitude of the offence committed.


Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P., 1972

In this case, some six or seven years before the present offence, there was an ill-feeling between the appellant and his cousin. The deceased was charged with murder but was eventually acquitted by the Allahabad High Court.


This case was decided in 1973, before the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The five-judge panel of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the death penalty, and the appellant was sentenced to death under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Judges stated that capital punishment was not violative of Articles 14,19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution of 1950 when the defendant argued that capital punishment was unconstitutional. The defendants argued that the judges were given too much authority with no limitations. The petitioner argued that it violated the accused’s Right to Equality, Right to Freedom of Expression, and Right to Life. 

The Supreme Court stated that it was not violative of Article 21 of the Constitution as long as the death penalty is awarded as per the procedure established by law. Since the death penalty was not unreasonable, it did not contravene Article 19, and the Court also has the right to impose the death penalty where crimes are of a hideous nature, so it was also not violative of Article 14. It was observed that the judges, on the basis of the facts, nature of the offence, and circumstances, exercised discretion on whether to award a death sentence or life imprisonment based on what was brought to light during the trial.

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1980

In this case, Bachan Singh was tried and convicted for the murders he had committed. He was sentenced to death under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code by the Sessions Judge. The question regarding the constitutional validity of the death penalty for murder under Section 302 was raised in this case.

The Ratio Decidendi of the Bacchan Singh case is that life imprisonment was to be considered the rule and the death penalty the exception. The death sentence has to be based on the action of the offender rather than the offence committed. This means that the death penalty can only be awarded in the “rarest of the rare” cases. Justice Bhagwati, in his dissenting statement, observed that the death penalty is not only unconstitutional but also violative of Articles 14 and 21. Under Section 302 of the IPC, the Court is not vested with unfettered discretion in choosing between life imprisonment and the death penalty.




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