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Analysis of Punishments under IPC

Punishment is the most important aspect of the criminal justice system as the criminal procedure and the penal code work together to bring the offenders behind the bars or any other punishment as provided for the offence committed by them. The punishments need to be just appropriate and in proportion to the nature of the offence committed not only to render just punishment to the convict but also to render justice to the victim and society at large.

The rehabilitation and reintegration of the convicts into the social fabric also have to be kept in mind. However, it has been noticed that the nature of punishments provided in the Penal Code has become outdated and there is a dire need of reforms to be made in the penal code so as to incorporate recent changes in the crime and the new crimes.

The imposition of an outcome which is not desirable or agreeable upon the persons jointly involved or a single person by any authority or forum is nothing but punishment. The study of the punishments meted out for various crimes and their implication upon the receiver and the society as a whole is known as Penology. A group of persons (known as recognized as Khaps or Panchayat in villages) or a single person authorized under an established legal system can extend punishments.

The process by which a State inflicts some kind of undesirable outcome or agony to to any person or his property who is proven to be guilty by a Court of Law is punishment. The compelling factors behind inflicting punishments can be summed up as retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation.

According to Edward Coke[1], "The law should be a shield for the innocent and a sword against the guilty".

Punishments do not merely act as deterrent rather they also play a very important and crucial role in any legal system because they not only maintain social order but also tent to provide justice to victims and society at large. In the context of the Indian Penal Code (herein after referred IPC), various punishments are prescribed for the offences ranging from minor infringements and breaches to heinous or graver crimes. Professor Robert Blecker[2] says that "the punishment must be painful in proportion to the crime".

With the evolution and advancement of societal norms, the perspective on criminal justice has become broader and matured than before due to which there is an ongoing need for reforms which aim to achieve the objects of fairness, proportionality, and rehabilitation within the punishment system.

Kinds of punishment under IPC

The IPC is the primary penal code of India that defines different types of offences and prescribes punishments for those offences. Section 53 and Chapter III of IPC provides provision for punishments. The Criminal Courts are empowered to try criminal offences and provide punishments to the offenders and these punishments are applicable only to offences given under the penal code.

The maximum sentence for a specific offence is set down in the Code's structure, leaving the Judge's discretion over the minimum punishment. The judge is fully equipped to decide what punishment will best serve the interests of justice in a given situation.
  1. Death Penalty
    The death sentence is the harshest type of punishment., in which, the convict is sentenced to death. This death penalty is also known as the capital punishment. The process of carrying out such practice/ punishment is called execution.

    In India, such a convict is hanged by neck till he dies. In the other parts of the world, death sentences are also executed by way of stoning, sawing, blowing from a weapon, deadly infusion, electric shock, etc.

    The Apex Court in Bachan Singh Vs State of Punjab[3], ruled that the death penalty does not violate Articles 14, 19, or 21 of the Indian Constitution and declared that it can be ordered in the "rare of the rarest case," or those situations in which the community as a whole is so shocked that it will expect the judiciary to impose the death penalty on the accused.

    In the matter of State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini[4], an appeal was filed in opposition to the High Court of Tamil Nadu's ruling. The former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in this case. There were 26 suspects and the Supreme Court sentenced four of them to death.
  2. Imprisonment
    It is an another of punishment which means putting someone behind the bars for a specified time period or for his natural life time.

    "Imprisonment should not be place where people are forgotten, but a space for reflection, growth, and an opportunity for redemption."- Shaka Senghor[5]

    The prison system, though quite ancient in form, serves as a cornerstone of the criminal justice system which aims to punish offenders, protects society, and potentially tries to rehabilitate those incarcerated/ ostracized from the society in order to assimilate them in the fabric of society so that they are not inclined towards crime in future.

    However, the concept of prison system has always evoked myriad opinions from various intellectuals. They are basically intended to separate offenders from the society in order to ensure public safety, maintain law & order and also to vindicate the victims. Furthermore, prisons act as deterrent and are designed to send a message to the offenders at large that criminal behaviour does not go un-noticed and carry unfavourable consequences of curbing their freedom.

    1. Life Imprisonment
      By the Act XXVI of 1955, the words "imprisonment for life" have been substituted for "transportation for life".

      In common usage, the term "imprisonment for life" refers to incarceration for the entirety of the condemned person's natural life. In serious offences, this punishment is given and comes just next to death penalty. It amounts to curbing the freedom of movement of an individual.

      In the case of Bhagirath and Ors V. Delhi Administration[6], The supreme court interpreted life imprisonment as confinement for the remainder of the convict's natural life. If a person is sentenced to life in prison, he must serve a minimum of 14 years there and a maximum of their entire lives.

      In another case cited as Naib Singh V. State of Punjab and Ors.[7], a life sentenced prisoner cannot request his release after serving 14 years in prison, the court said. If a prisoner is sentenced to life in jail, it is till his death. Commutation and remission are the only exceptions to this rule.
    2. Simple Imprisonment
      In this type of punishment, an offender is just kept in jail or prison and is not required to perform any hard duty. It is ordered mainly in offences which are much lesser in gravity and meant to nip the bud.
    3. Rigorous Imprisonment
      Detention involving strenuous effort, such as carrying heavy goods, sawing wood, or digging up soil.

      As per the provisions of Section 60 of the IPC, the court which is competent has been conferred the option to choose the kind of imprisonment to be given to the convict which can be either wholly or partly rigorous; or it can be either completely or partially simple; or any term or period must be strict, while the remainder must be easy.

      In the case of State of Gujarat vs. Honorable High Court of Gujarat[8], it was decided that convicts who are subjected to strict incarceration and forced labour are entitled to seek daily remuneration for the labour or task they perform, as it will not only boost their dignity but it is also a matter of right and penal jurisprudence.
  3. Forfeiture of property
    The punishments covered by Section 53 also includes forfeiture of property. It implies loss of property without receiving compensation. Under this, the property of the accused may be forfeited by the concerned court, which means the confiscation of assets or properties belonging to the offender that are deemed to be connected to the offence committed.

    Any property either movable or immovable may be forfeited.

    This principle is no longer considered a punishment except in the following three types of offences:
    1. When an offender attacks, destroys property belonging to the Indian Government, or prepares to do so, he will be penalized by having his property forfeited in accordance with under section 126.
    2. Any person determined to have received property taken during hostilities or as a result of plunder is subject to forfeiture of their property, as described in section 127.
    3. Any public employee who is discovered buying or purchasing property illegally in his or another person's name will be punished by having the property forfeited, as detailed in section 169.
    In the case of Shoba Suresh Jumani vs. appellant tribunal, Forfeiture of property[9], the Hon'ble Supreme Court ruled that sections 61 and 62, which were repealed in 1921, needed to be reinstated in the law because they serve as a deterrent to those who launder money and do so at the expense of society by abusing their positions of authority or power.
  4. Fine
    A fine is a sum of money that is required to be paid as punishment for a crime or other offence by a court of law or other authority. It may also be imposed in addition to incarceration as a penalty. Common law imposes relatively modest penalty on minor infractions.

    Section 63 to 69 elaborates different types of fines which can be imposed under the IPC. However, as per the terms of Section 64 of the Code, the sentencing court may impose the appropriate amount of imprisonment in circumstances where the fine is not paid on time.

    As per the mandate of Section 63 of the IPC, the quantum of fine to which the offender is accountable is unrestricted when the amount of the fine is not indicated in accordance with the Code's rules. The fine must not be high, though, at the same time.

    In the ruling of Palaniappa Gounder v. State of Tamil Nadu[10], the Apex Court held that the court's penalty or sentence must be proportionate to the type and severity of the offence committed. This punishment also involves a fine, which must not be overly severe.

Solitary Confinement
Section 73 of the IPC allows for solitary confinement, a kind of punishment in which the prisoner spends different specified durations of time alone in a cell with little to no meaningful interaction with other prisoners or anybody else. In the prison system, solitary confinement is a form of punishment technique used to punish or segregate disruptive convicts who have a security risk to other inmates, the prison staff, or the prison itself.

The legality of solitary confinement has been frequently contested over the past 60 years as attitudes towards the practise have changed.

In the case of Sunil Batra Etc vs Delhi Administration And Ors.[11], the court was of the opinion that the punishment of solitary confinement should not be ordered unless it appears to be required taking into consideration the nature of the crime done by the wrongdoer. The offence committed shall be of life-threatening violence or if the manner of the commission of the offence by the offender was so brutal. However, in-spite of the same, the court felt that the punishment of solitary confinement is inhumane and horrendous.

Interpretation of Punishments

The interpretation of punishments under IPC involves understanding and then strict application of the provisions of the IPC in relation to the offences committed. When a court of law determines the appropriate punishment for an offence, it construes the specific language of the section and provisions of the IPC stringently, along with relevant case laws and legal principles. The interpretation process involves analyzing the nature and severity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding it, and any mitigating or aggravating factors.

Courts interpret punishments under the IPC with the ultimate objective to achieve not only justice for the victim but at the same time, deterrence, and rehabilitation of the offenders. They aim to ensure that the punishment imposed is proportionate to the offence committed, taking into account factors such as the intent of the offender, the impact on the victim and society, and any other extenuating circumstances.

Interpretation also involves understanding the different categories of punishments prescribed under the IPC, including death penalty, imprisonment (both rigorous and simple), fines, life imprisonment, and forfeiture of property. The courts carefully evaluate the specific circumstances of each case to determine the appropriate type and duration of punishment.

In addition, the interpretation of punishments under the IPC is influenced by legal principles such as proportionality, fairness, and the fundamental rights of the accused. The courts aim to ensure that punishments are neither excessive and arbitrary nor violative of the constitutional rights of the accused, such as the right to life and personal liberty.

The interpretation of punishments under the IPC has evolved over time through judicial precedents, legislative amendments, and societal changes. Courts have a significant role to play in order to interpret and apply the provisions of the IPC to ensure fair and just outcome as per the principles of law and justice.

Proposals for Reforms

  1. The punishments should be effective enough to act as deterrent as well as the same should not be severe. Therefore, it is time for Indian Judiciary to have a sentencing policy where there is no space for ambiguity and prejudice on the part of the Judge which creates a barrier while sentencing. An effective implementation of this reform will also reduce the appeals for enhancing or reducing punishment and it will in turn remove the burden of growing number of pending appeals and the Court can devote the crucial time to matters of concern.

    Sentencing Guidelines:
    Comprehensive and standardized sentencing guidelines need to be introduced in order to ensure consistency and proportionality in punishments. These guidelines will act as a framework for judges within which they have to determine the appropriate sentences and that it shall be based on the factors such as nature and severity of the offence after taking into account mitigating and aggravating factors and no other.
  2. Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice:
    The purpose of punishments should not be merely punitive but the rehabilitation and reintegration of the offenders in the social fabric are also of much importance. This is what a restorative justice is which acts as an alternative to incarceration of offenders for certain offences and also to prevent them from resorting to crime in their remaining part of their lives. The focal point of punishment should not only be to address the root causes of criminal behavior but also to provide support and opportunities for offenders to reintegrate into society.

  3. Community Service and Probation:
    In the cases of non-violent offences, the use of community service and probation as alternatives to imprisonment should be wide expanded. These measures can contribute in promoting accountability, providing opportunities for offenders to make amends, and thus reducing the burden on the correctional system.
  4. The Code can allow for the establishment of an appropriate victim compensation fund that may also contain confiscated assets from organised crime.

Analysis of Punishments in Current Scenarios
The society is evolving my leaps and bounds as never before due to advancement in technology and mode of communication and transport, easy access to information and resources. As a result of which, the nature and manner of commission of crime has aggravated and even some new methods of commission of crime have come into picture. But the law dealing with these crimes is still belonging to the colonial era and even the punishments are not in consonance with them.

In order to maintain law and order in the society, it is incumbent that the law and society should go hand in hand. It has now become imperative to incorporate the recent trend in the crimes and to enhance the punishments so that their relevance is not lost. For example, a fine of Rs 50 or Rs 100 sounds too minimal. Even the method of execution of death penalty is too archaic.

  1. Edward Coke served as England and Wales' former attorney general and he was also remembered as one of the best jurists of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages.
  2. Robert Blecker is a well-known death penalty expert. He is a professor at New York Law School.
  3. "Bachan Singh Vs State of Punjab (AIR 1980 SC 898, 1980)"
  4. "State of Tamil Nadu Vs Nalini (11th May, 1999)"
  5. Shaka Senghor is the Head of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at TripActions.
  6. "Bhagirath and Ors V. Delhi Administration (1985 AIR 1050)"
  7. "Naib Singh V. State of Punjab and Ors. (AIR 1986 SC 2192)"
  8. "State of Gujarat vs. Honorable High Court of Gujarat AIR 1998 SC 3164: (1998) 7 SCC 392"
  9. "Shoba Suresh Jumani vs. appellant tribunal, Forfeiture of property AIR 2001 SC 2288: (2001) 5 SCC 755: (2001) Cr LJ 2583 (SC)"
  10. "Palaniappa Gounder V. State of Tamil Nadu 1977 AIR 1323, 1977 SCR (3) 132"
  11. "Sunil Batra Etc V. Delhi Administration and Ors. 1978 AIR 1675, 1979 SCR (1) 392"

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Yavnika Jain, 4th Year BA LLB student at Delhi Metropolitan Education affiliated to GGSIP University, New Delhi
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JL354945339303-2-0723

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