The Supreme Court of India in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, listed “future dangerousness” of the accused as one of the factors the court must consider when awarding the death sentence. The burden of proof lies on the State to prove the same. This standard has been inconsistently applied in Indian capital sentencing jurisprudence. In Anil Anthony, the most recent decision on this issue, the Supreme Court held that determination of future dangerousness cannot be based on the facts of the case. However, in earlier decisions such as Gurdev Singh, the court concluded that the brutality of the crime ruled out the possibility of reform.

This article argues, drawing on a comparative analysis with the United States, that though future dangerousness is an inevitable “fact in issue” for judges, the evidence that may be adduced does not meet the standards required for the imposition of the death penalty. Thus, future dangerousness as a determining factor during sentencing is a ground for challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty itself. In the interim, Anil Anthony is a better standard to apply, as compared to both Bachan Singh and Gurdev Singh, in principle as well as in practice.

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