What is death penalty?
Capital punishment or death penalty is a legal process by which a person is put to death as a punishment for a crime.
Death penalty is seen as an inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment throughout the world.
Under the Indian Penal Code, crimes like treason, abetment of mutiny, perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person, murder, kidnapping for ransom and dacoity with murder led to death sentence.
Soon after Nirbhaya's case, Parliament changed the law to make a second charge of rape punishable with the death penalty.
The Criminal Procedure Code requires special reasons to be given for awarding capital punishment.
In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment should be imposed only in the "rarest of rare cases".
What data say?
India is one of the 59 nations that retain the death penalty.
According to the Government, only 54 persons have been executed since Independence.
The National Crime Records Bureau's report reveals that between 2001 and 2011, an average of 132 death sentences were handed down each year by trial courts across the country.
NCRB data say that the Supreme Court, during the same period, have confirmed only 3-4 death sentences each year.
For almost eight years between 2004 and 2012, no executions were carried out in India.
26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru were the last to be executed.
Over 140 countries have abolished the death penalty and over 20 others who retained it, have not executed capital sentences in last 10 years.
What led to a re-look?
The Supreme Court has directed the Commission to study whether the death penalty needs to be completely abolished or retained in some cases.
The apex court has been sceptical about the application of capital punishment, and has commuted the death sentences of at least 19 convicts to life imprisonment.
At several occassions, Court has admitted that there have been cases where death penalty has been carried out arbitrarily, inconsistently or incorrectly.
This is the second time since Independence that Commission is studying capital punishment.
In 1967, the Commission's report said that given the diversity of India's population and the need to maintain law and order, "at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of the abolition of capital punishment".