Report No. 262
(i) Retribution as Revenge
4.7.3 The conception of retribution as revenge is based on the understanding that the "undeserved evil" inflicted by the criminal on the victim should be matched by a similar amount of punishment to him/her.321 As stated earlier, the oft-quoted adag.- "an eye for an eye," is an articulation of this approach.322
321 Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals 141-42 (M.J. Gregor trans., 1996); Jeffrie G. Murphy, Kant : The Philosophy of Right 124 (1994).
322 Susan Easton And Christine Piper, Sentencing And Punishment: The Quest For Justice 57 (2012).
4.7.4 The Supreme Court has disapproved the revenge based approach of retribution. In Deena v. Union of India, (1983) 4 SCC 645 the Court ruled that "[t]he retribution involved in the theory 'tooth for tooth' and 'an eye for an eye' has no place in the scheme of civilized jurisprudence." Deena v. Union of India, (1983) 4 SCC 645, at para 10. More recently, in Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 1 the Supreme Court ruled that "retribution has no Constitutional value" Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 1, at para 245 in India.
It held that "an accused has a de-facto protection under the Constitution and it is the Court's duty to shield and protect the same." Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 1, at para 245. It further held that such protection extends to "every convict including death convicts." Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 1, at para 245.
Thus, the Supreme Court has now clearly recognized that retribution in the form of revenge as a justification for punishment does not pass Constitutional muster. The Court has also reiterated that "the retributive theory has had its day and is no longer valid." Rajendra Prasad v. State of U.P., (1979) 3 SCC 646, at para 88.
4.7.5 In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 the Court observed that "retribution in the sense of society's reprobation for the worst of crimes is not an altogether outmoded concept." Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684, at para 102. This understanding views retribution not as "revenge," but as condemnation of the offender's actions. Thus, Bachan Singh did not advocate the "eye for an eye" approach.