Reason Why It Is “HANG TILL DEATH” and Not Just “To Be Hanged”!

hang till death
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Many of us do know that in India death punishment is inflicted on a convict by hanging him till death. But how many of us have ever given it a thought as to why does a judge write “to be hanged till death” and not just “to be hanged” or “to be hung”. Well here is the answer.

One can find the procedure of death sentence in Section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973). It says that when any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct the person to be hanged by the neck till he is dead. While this is what the law says, one can clearly see the commonsensical explanation behind the phrase, which is to make clear that the person has to be hanged by neck till he dies. “To be hanged” or “to be hung” could mean that the person has to be only hung. It does not essentially imply that he has to be hanged so as to cause his death.

The Indian law also has it that a person cannot be tried for the same offence more than once in the Court of law. There can be certain cases where the person somehow survives the execution or hanging. For instance, where the rope by which the person is to be hanged, tears up. In such a case, the person cannot be hanged again for that same offence.

The Real Story Behind the Phrase “Hang Till Death”:

There, in reality, is a very interesting incident that led to the usage of this particular phrase. Not many would know of this historical case. In the 1900’s the revolt against the British Raj was in full swing. A man was charged for an offence against some British officer. That man was then taken before the Court of law. He was accused of being a rebel and that he was participating in the revolt against the British. The Judge determined to give the man an exemplary punishment. He wanted to punish the man in a way so that such acts would not be repeated again. Thus, he decided that the man was to be hung in front of the public.


The man was lucky to be represented by Pandit Moti Lal Nehru. Nehru was a leading lawyer and a freedom fighter as well. It was Nehru’s reputation and belief of the Indian public in him that made everyone wonder in astonishment as to why Nehru did not object to the punishment. No one could digest that Nehru was so calm even when the man was going to be hung.

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The day arrived when the man was to be punished. He was brought to the place of execution, while the crowd gazed all of it in disappointment. The man was hung. BUT… as soon as he was hung, Nehru instantaneously asked the authorities to halt. He asked the men standing around to hold the accused man and save him by bringing him down. No one had a clue of what just happened. The accused man was saved.

When this matter was taken to the Court, Nehru made an argument that created history. He very cleverly put across his argument. He said that as per the punishment the man was “to be hung”. That’s why rationally, the sentence was actually carried out and was completed the very second the man was hung.

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Nehru argued that the Judge never wrote in the sentence that for how long the man was to be hung. It was not specified if the man was supposed to die because of the hanging. If only the words in the sentence had been to hang the accused man “until death”, the things would have been different. Well now, since a man could not be punished twice for the same offence, the accused man was free. Nehru’s argument could not be overruled.

It was only after this landmark in the history, that an amendment to the death punishment was made in the law. Ever since the words “to be hang till death” are used.

Read also – “All You Need To Know About “Kala Pani Ki Saza”