This article is written by Easy Panda. The present article provides an in-depth study of the case of Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab (2006), along with the facts, issues raised, arguments of the parties, and rationale behind the judgement. It also explains the laws involved and provides an analysis of the judgement given. 

This article has been published by Shashwat Kaushik.


“Equality means dignity, and dignity demands that we be seen as whole human beings.”- Catharine Mackinnon

Download Now

Sexual violence is one of the major problems that women in India face. It is one such crime that leaves a traumatising effect on the victim. Many times, the victim goes to the extent of ending her life. This crime is deeply rooted in the veins of patriarchal society since it develops a feeling of control over the opposite gender. The offence of rape is mentioned under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), which states that a man is said to commit the offence of rape when he penetrates his penis, any object, or any part of his body into the vagina, mouth, or anus of a woman or forces her to do so with him or any other man. Section 376 of the IPC prescribes a maximum punishment of rigorous imprisonment for life or a minimum of ten years. In many cases, rape and murder take place simultaneously. The accused, while committing rape, goes to such a barbarian extent that it leads to the death of the victim. The case of Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab (2006) is one similar case in which a girl child was raped and left to die. 

Details of Amrit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2006)

Case name: Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab  

Case No:  Appeal (crl.) 1327 of 2005

Equivalent citations: (2007) 1 SCC (Crl) 41

Acts involved: Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure,

Important provisions: Section 302 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: 2-Judge Bench (Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice Dalveer Bhandari)

Judgement date: 10 November 2006

Background of Amrit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2006)

The case of Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab is one such case where the accused appealed to the Supreme Court against the judgement of the High Court for capital punishment. The case involves the concept of the rarest of rare crimes and how this case was an exception to the same. 

Doctrine of rarest of rare

The doctrine of the rarest of the rare is nowhere defined in any statutory law. However, in simple terms, it can be understood that if any crime is committed in the most brutal way possible or the previous conduct of the offender is such that there is no chance of improvement and is a threat to society, then the crime committed will come under this doctrine. As defined under Section 53 of the IPC, the offender under this provision is punished through various forms such as the death penalty, imprisonment for life, simple or rigorous imprisonment, forfeiture of property, or a fine. If the facts of the case are such that they make it fall under the category of the rarest of rare crimes, then the accused may be given the death penalty. Some of the common crimes, which include the death penalty, are murder (Section 302 of the IPC), offences against the state (Sections 121 to 130 of the IPC), rape (Section 375 of the IPC), kidnapping, and abduction for ransom (Section 364A of the IPC). 

The doctrine of rarest of the rare crime was first pointed out in the case of Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab (2006). In this case, Bacchan Singh was awarded the death sentence by the trial court for the murder of Basant Singh and his brother-in-law, Darshan Singh. He appealed in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, but the sentence was upheld. Later, he appealed in the Supreme Court of India under Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. The five-judge bench heard the appeal and came up with the doctrine of the rarest of rare crimes, thereby dismissing the appeal and upholding the High Court judgement. Further, in the case of Macchi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983), the court gave certain guidelines with respect to crimes falling under the category of rarest of rare crimes. This includes the manner of commission of a crime, the motive of the crime, the magnitude of the crime, and the personality of the victim.

Since there is no standard definition of the doctrine of the rarest of the rare, it has become a topic of controversy among many scholars. The main problem arises whenever the courts grant capital punishment to the offender, like in the case of State of UP v. Satish (2005), where the accused had raped a six-year-old girl. In contrast, in another case, Pal Shiv Balakal v. State of Gujrat (2004), the court refused to grant a death sentence to the accused, who had brutally raped and murdered a teenage girl. Since there is a lack of uniformity in the judgements, it has become a debatable topic. 

Facts of Amrit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2006) 

The present case is an appeal by Amrit Singh in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, who has been awarded the death penalty by the Session Court and upheld by the Hon’ble High Court of Haryana and Punjab for brutally raping and murdering a minor girl. 

Raj Preet Kaur (Guddi), daughter of Karamjit Singh, was a 2nd standard school-going student. On 3rd November 2003, she went to play with her classmate Amarpreet Kaur, daughter of Gurbax Singh, at her house, which was situated at the revenue estate of Ramgarh, village Shahpuria. Guddi left for her home at around 5:00 p.m. In the evening, she was accompanied by Amarpreet to pakka water house. 

When Guddi didn’t reach her home until morning, her father went to search for her. He was told that some people had found a dead body in the agricultural field of Amrit Singh. On seeing the body, the father of the deceased called his brother Baldev Singh and went to lodge a report at the police station. 

A public witness, namely Gurmail Singh, disclosed the fact that he had seen Amrit Singh with the deceased at about 5.45 p.m. Later, a post-mortem report was done on the deceased, which showed an external injury to the neck, and according to the doctors, death was caused by a loss of blood. The report also stated that some dry leaves were found in her hair and some spreads of human hair were found in her hand. These circumstances made sure of the deceased being raped and murdered. 

When the matter went to the Additional Session Judge in Mansa, the court awarded the death penalty to the Appellant under sections 376 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, and the same was upheld by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh on 3rd August 2005. The matter was then appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Issues raised 

The issues raised in the present appeal before the Hon’ble Supreme Court were as follows:

  1. Whether there is any link between the commission of murder and rape by the accused?
  2. Whether the imposition of the death penalty by the Session Court and upheld by the Hon’ble High Court is valid? 

Arguments of the parties


Mr. H.L. Agarwal had appeared for the appellant side and had argued that the respondent was not able to establish a link between the chain of events. He stated that the only evidence that linked the Appellant to the case was his being seen with the deceased by Gurmail Singh, which cannot be said to be conclusive proof for committing such an offence. He also argued that the death of the deceased was caused by excessive blood loss. The Appellant, in no way, can be said to have any intention of killing her, and thus the charge under Section 302 of the IPC stands invalid. He further argued that there was no evidence to support the link between murder and the rape of the deceased. Mr. H.L. Agarwal also pointed out the fact that if the rape had happened in the agricultural field, she would have shouted, and in no case, it was possible that people would not have listened to her. He also contended that the Hon’ble High Court and Session Court overlooked the fact that after the arrest of the appellant, he was not produced before the Magistrate, for which they had sent a telegram to the Chief Justice of the Hon’ble High Court.


Mr. Sanjay Jain was the lawyer for the Respondent. He submitted that the Session Court as well as the Hon’ble High Court rightly relied on the circumstantial evidence about the involvement of the Appellant, as he was the last one to be seen with the deceased. He also stated that the Appellant had absconded for a very long time, and when he was asked to submit samples of his hair for examination by the investigating officer, he refused to do so, which implied a negative inference about him. He lastly contended that the injuries on the neck of the dead body found in the cotton field of the Appellant clearly stated that the Appellant had attempted to strangulate her.  

Judgement in Amrit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2006)

The Appellant in the very beginning pointed out the case of Prem Thakur v. State of Punjab (1982), which stated that there was no conclusive evidence to prove the chain of events, and therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court refused to give conviction since it thought that this would lead to grave injustice. The Appellant argued that since there was no direct proof that connected the accused to the crime scene, the argument of the witness should not be given much importance. 

However, the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case was based on the fact that the respondent was able to convince the court that the accused was the last person seen with the deceased. Therefore, the court was sure that the accused had raped the victim. The court also said that the evidence last seen may form the basis for conviction as it keeps changing based on the facts and circumstances of every case. 

One question that remained in front of the court was whether there was a link between the commission of the offence of rape and murder. On this matter, the Hon’ble Court had said in the case of Sunny Kpoor v. State (U.T. of Chandigarh) (2006) that to convict the accused under Section 302 of the IPC, there must be some evidence that directly connects the accused to the crime. On this matter, the Appellant was able to convince the court that the accused had no intention of killing the victim. The victim died because of the excessive blood flow from the body. The court was positive about the fact that the Appellant did not have any enmity towards the father of the deceased, and in no way did the accused want to kill her intentionally. 

Therefore, the court was of the contention that the imposition of the death penalty in this case was not proper. The court further said that the circumstances of the case do not let it fall into the rarest of rare crime cases and was of the opinion that though the rape was brutal, the Appellant did not have any prior intention to commit such an act as it may have been done due to a momentary lapse on his part.

Based on the arguments of the Appellant and the Respondent, the Hon’ble Supreme Court agreed that the prosecution has shown enough evidence to prove the culpability of the accused. However, the court did not consider this case as rarest of rare and therefore held the appellant guilty only under Section 276(2)(f) of the IPC and not under Section 302 of the IPC. Thereby changing the sentence of capital punishment to rigorous imprisonment for life.

Analysis of Amrit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2006)

As we know, there is no definition of the rarest of rare crimes, this doctrine is based on the facts, circumstances, brutality, and previous conduct of the offender. Thus, it becomes very difficult for the judges to decide the case in which the offender should be awarded the death penalty. Jurists from across the globe have varied opinions on this. In fact, capital punishment is banned in many countries across the world. However, Indian law still believes in this system. 

Is the death penalty the only solution

Marie Deans, whose mother-in-law was murdered in 1972, gave an astonishing statement when the accused was given capital punishment. She said that revenge isn’t the answer to her suffering; instead, the state should look into ways to reduce violence by causing no more deaths. 

The death penalty is one such punishment that violates the basic fundamental right of human beings to live. It gives no scope to undo the mistake that might have occurred during the investigation. One basic assumption that we all make is that the death penalty helps in improving the crime rate. However, there is no scientific evidence that confirms the same. Also, not everyone deserves the same punishment for the crime they commit. A rapist is never raped back to give justice to the victim. Similarly, there is no point in giving a death sentence to the accused who has murdered someone. 

However, the Indian judiciary has a different view about capital punishment. The validity of capital punishment was first questioned in the case of Jaganmohan Singh v. Uttar Pradesh (1972), where the court held that the choice of awarding the death penalty is following the procedure established by law and the choice of death sentence or imprisonment for life should be decided as per the facts of each case. Later, in the case of Rajendra Prasad v. State of Punjab (1980), the court held that capital punishment is violative of Article 14 and should only be awarded to the accused if he is dangerous to society. Finally, in the case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that capital punishment is not violative of Article 21, and the state has the right to put an end to the life of the accused by following due process of law.

In order to maintain law and order in the general public, it is necessary to create a fear of death in the minds of criminals because it is evident from the fact that the reformative theory of punishment does not work properly in India and the rate of crime has increased. Therefore, the death penalty in India still prevails as a valid form of punishment, and it should only be given in cases of the rarest of rare crimes.  

To award the accused the death penalty, the judge has to see the case from two viewpoints:

  1. Aggravating Circumstances: The aggravating circumstances mean the extent of cruelty from the victim’s point of view. Here, the judge has the power to decide whether to award the death penalty to the accused by analysing the circumstances of the case. 
  2. Mitigating Circumstances: The mitigating circumstances refer to the situation where the judge has to consider all the factors being presented by the counsel who is arguing in favour of the victim. The judge then uses its discretionary power to decide whether to award the death penalty or not to the accused. 

The case of Macchi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983) is a landmark case with respect to the validity of the death penalty in India. In this case, the court held the death penalty to be constitutional and laid out the guidelines to be followed in giving the death penalty. The Hon’ble Supreme Court mentioned some criteria to check if the case falls under the purview of this doctrine or not. These include:

  1. Method of commission of the murder: It refers to the situation when the homicide or murder is committed in a way that involves extreme brutality, ridiculousness, demonics, revolting, and is done in such a reprehensible manner that it creates a sense of anger in society. In the case of Mukesh & Anr. vs. State for Nct of Delhi & Ors, popularly known as the Nirbhaya gang rape case, the accused were given the death penalty because of the brutality with which they raped and tortured the victim. 
  2. Crime deserving hatred in society: It refers to those crimes whose commission creates chaos in society, such as the homicide of a socially deprived class of people. In the case of Smt. Chandrapati v. State of Haryana and Others (2011), popularly known as the Manoj Babli case, the accused were given the death penalty for killing Manoj and Babli because they had an intercaste marriage. 
  3. Intensity of the crime: It refers to a situation when the frequency of committing a homicide is much greater than it is usually expected to be. In the case of Surendra Koli v. State of UP (2023), infamously known as the Nithari Kaand, the court has awarded the death penalty to the accused because he was found eating the dead bodies of the victims after raping and murdering them. 
  4. Personality of the victim: When the homicide is committed against:
  • An innocent child whose murder cannot even be justified by way of provocation,
  • A helpless woman or a person with old age and infirmity,
  • Where the victim is a person whose accused is in a position of dominance,
  • Where the victim is a public figure who is respected by the community for his services rendered to society and the murder is committed for some other reason except for personal reasons. 

In the case of Md. Mannan @ Abdul Mannan v. State of Bihar (2019), the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the death sentence given by the trial court for murdering and raping a child.

By applying the above guidelines, the court is required to ask the following question to itself and answer accordingly. 

  1. Is there anything unusual about the crime that makes the sentence of life imprisonment for an accused insufficient and needs to be replaced by the death sentence?
  2. Are there any conditions in the case that provide no alternative but only a death sentence to be given, even after examining the facts and circumstances of the case that are in favour of the accused?

In India, rape as a crime is more common than murder. According to the latest data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), murder stands at 2.2, while rape stands at 5.2. In the case of Laxman Naik v. State of Orissa (1994), a 7-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by her uncle, and the court gave the death penalty to the accused because the degree of injuries to the victim was enough to prove the brutality of the accused. But in the case of Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab, the court did not confirm the death penalty, which was given by the trial court and high court, on the ground that rape occurred because of a momentary lapse of time at that particular moment. This reasoning of the court is not at all acceptable and should be highlighted among the bad decisions. Rape should be considered rape even if it is done with foolproof planning or instantly in a lapse of time. The person who is accused of rape should be awarded the death penalty because he is a threat to society, and the death penalty provides a sense of justice to the victim. One of the most straightforward reasons for the death penalty is that it prevents additional crimes by preventing convicted accused from doing the same crime again. Recidivism means the habit of committing the same crime again and again. In India, the problem of recidivism has been historically high. Out of the total recidivists from the year 1998, more than 70% were convicted once, while 18% and 9% were convicted twice and three times, respectively. 

However, the death penalty has an adverse effect on society because a 2016 report found that 76% of prisoners who were awarded the death penalty belonged to scheduled castes, tribes, and other backward classes. The report further said that 80% of the accused had not even completed their schooling. So, education is a very important factor when it comes to any crime. The chances of uneducated people being involved in crime are much greater than those of educated people. Also, there is very little proof that awarding the death penalty to the accused reduces crime, so jurists from across the world are moving towards a more humanitarian view of justice that focuses on reformation. Even the 262nd report of the Law Commission of India suggested that the death penalty should be abolished for all forms of crime other than crimes related to terrorism and acts of waging war against the country. 

There were so many death verdicts announced by the courts. However, only four of the convicts were executed in 2020 in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case. This shows that the execution rate is very low, which somehow has a negative effect on the Indian judicial system.  


We have come a long way from having no tool for redressal available to a woman. Sexual harassment constitutes a hindrance to peace and security. It is a very significant challenge to address the prevention of sexual harassment of women. It generally holds women back from participating and giving their contribution to peace and democratic processes. As a result of sexual harassment, many women lose their support and close ones. It is very important to take measures to address sexual harassment and the issues arising from it. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, capital punishment was imposed in every homicide case, making it a very common practice. To address this issue and with a vision to reform the victim, the death penalty was made rare, and focus was assigned to giving life imprisonment. Since the discretion to award the death sentence is left to the judge, there is no common rule for it. So, to resolve this issue, standardised guidelines should be laid down, which will ensure uniformity, and the decision must be taken with due care and reasonableness so that even if the accused had the minimum chances of survival, it is duly followed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In which case was the rarest of the rare doctrine established?

The doctrine of rarest of rare crimes was established in the case of Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab, in which the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the validity of the death penalty and laid down the principles as to when the accused should be given this punishment. Later, in the case of Macchi Singh v. State of Punjab, the court laid down the criteria to identify any crime as rarest of rare. 

How many countries have abolished the death penalty?

As per the report of Amnesty International in 2021, 108 countries have abolished the death penalty for all forms of crime. The recent countries to abolish the death penalty are Papua New Guinea, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Zambia in 2022.  

Who is the first woman to be awarded the death penalty in India?

Shabnam Ali is the first woman to be given the death penalty in India. She was convicted of killing seven members of her family. Some people also claim that Rattan Bai Jain is the first woman to be awarded the death penalty, but there is no corroborative information about this, and thus, nothing can be confirmed. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here