Punishments Under Indian Penal Code, 1860

Punishments Under Indian Penal Code, 1860


The practice of awarding punishments are a very essential part of the criminal justice system as it is a form of society’s manifestation of the admonition of the crime by a collective conscience. As society has evolved, the form of punishment has also replaced it. Earlier the sole object for punishing a delinquent was retribution i.e. to recompense from him the wrong he has committed or in other words because he deserves to be admonished. However such punishments are no more a part of the contemporary criminal legal system as they violate humanitarian grounds.

What is punishment

Punishment is the penalty for the transgression of the law or punishment is any damage or pain inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure.

According to

  • Hobbes: punishment is for the transgression of rules and it is inflicted by legally authorized persons.
  • According to Hall: punishment is a coercive deprivation intimately applied to an offender because of his voluntary commission of harm forbidden by penal law and implying his moral culpability.
  • According to Bentham: punishment is an empirical question of desire and of the infliction of sufficient pain to provide an effective deterrent.

The Elements of punishments

According to Prof. Hart, the punishment is as follows

  • It must involve pain or other consequence normally considered unpleasant
  • It must be for an offense against legal rules
  • It must be of an actual or supposed offender for his offense
  • It must be intentionally administered by human beings other than the offender

It must be 

  • imposed and administered by human beings other than the offender.

The object of punishment is 

  • The principal aim of punishment is the prevention of offenses
  • Protection of citizen

Theory of punishment

There are various theories which are they to explain the purpose of punishment

Retributive theory The theory proposes punishment must be equivalent to the wrongs committed by the wrongdoer. an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth is a basic principle of the theory also known as vengeance theory.

For example, a pig was burnt in Paris for having devoured a child and a horse was killed for kicking a man

  • Reformative

This theory contemplates bringing about a reformation in the accused either while serving the punishment or by the punishment itself. It is based on a humanistic principle.

 Mahatma Gandhi “Condemn the Sin, not the Sinner”

  • Preventive

Restraining the criminals from continuing or pursuing their criminal activities is necessary by imprisonment, death, or exile, the theory aims to keep the offender away from society so that he does not commit any more crimes.

  • Deterrent/Utilitarian 

The term “Deter” means to abstain from doing an act this theory envisages that awarding punishment would help discourage or deter any prospective offense under this theory punishment is award severe to crime 

Punishment available under IPC

The five different kinds of punishments awarded by the Indian Penal Code, 1860 have been enumerated under Section 53, and those are as follows:

  • Death 
  • Life imprisonment 
  • Simple or rigorous imprisonment 
  • Fine 
  • Forfeiture of property.


  1. Capital punishment  

Its severe form of punishment is awarded under IPC, it is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction of criminal liability. Capital punishment is recognized as the legal death penalty in India.

The offense for which capital punishment is prescribed under IPC is as follows 

  • Waging war against the government of India 
  • Mutiny & its abetment 
  • Giving or fabricating false evidence upon which an innocent person suffers death 
  • Murder 
  • Abetment for the suicide of child, insane person 
  • Dacoity accompanied by murder 
  • Attempt to murder by a person convicted with life imprisonment.

The constitutional validity of capital punishment

In contemporary India, death sentences are only reserved for the rarest of rare cases. However, there is no guideline or structure to define these “rarest of rare” cases.

The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations adopted a resolution demanding a complete eradication of the death sentence as a punishment. However, the Apex court of India evolved a doctrine of rarest of rare cases to uphold the constitutionality of the death penalty.

In Jagmohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the court upheld the constitutional validity of the death sentence & held that the death penalty is not violative of articles 14, 19, & 21.

In Rajendra Prasad v state of Uttar Pradesh the court held that the death sentence is violative of articles 14, 19, and 21 courts also observed that while awarding the death penalty, the two criteria required 

  • The special reason should be recorded for imposing the death penalty in a case 
  • The death penalty must be imposed only in an extraordinary circumstance

Again in  Bachan Singh vs the State of Punjab, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of the death penalty. It said that if capital punishment is provided in the law and the procedure is a fair, just, and reasonable one, the death sentence can be awarded to a convict. This will, however, only be in the “rarest of rare” cases, and the courts should render “special reasons” while sending a person to the gallows.

Honorable court 

clarify the Doctrine of rarest of the rare case from the landmark judgment in Macchi Singh and others v. State of Punjab in this judgment court mention the condition to be fulfilled for awarding of death penalty along with illustration those are

  1. a) Motive
  2. b) Manner of commission
  3. c) The extent of crime
  4. d) Anti-social or repugnant nature of the crime
  5. e) Personality of victim

The Law Commission of India in its 262nd Report (August 2015) recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offenses and waging war.

  1. Life imprisonment 

Life Imprisonment implies a sentence of imprisonment for the remaining period of a convict’s natural life or till his last breath. Sec 55 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides that the appropriate Government may commute a sentence of imprisonment for life, for the imprisonment of not more than 14 years.

  1. Imprisonment 

Another form of punishment is imprisonment. Golash writes about imprisonment: “Imprisonment means, at minimum, the loss of liberty and autonomy, as well as many material comforts, personal security, and access to heterosexual relations.” During the primitive period, imprisonment was barely known it was in the 19th and 20th centuries that it became a part of the legal system. the framers of the penal code incorporated two types of the imprisonment are

  • Simple imprisonment

The punishment awarded under simple imprisonment is not rigorous and awarded for a small offense like wrongful restraint, defamation, etc..,

Some offences under which simple imprisonment award

Refusing to take an oath (Section 178)

       2)  defamation (Section 500)

       3) Wrongful restraint

        4)Misconduct by a drunken person, etc (Section 510).

4. Forfeiture of property

Forfeiture of the property has been provided by the Indian Penal Code and it was even prevalent in ancient India. However, the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 1921 repealed Sections 61 and 62 which imposed the punishment awarded for forfeiture of property. Despite some provision provides for forfeiture of property

▪ Committing depredation on territories of Power at peace with the Govt of India

▪ Receiving property taken by war or depredation mentioned in Sec.125 and 126 of I.P.C.

 ▪ Public servant unlawfully buying or bidding for a property.

5.Fine or levying of penalty 

The levying of fines or penalties has been ubiquitous since the start of the tribal system in the civilization. In the case of Ashok Kumar vs. State, the Apex court had opined that “payment of fine brings home the sense of responsibility in a surer fashion than even short terms of imprisonment in some cases.

The court may award a penalty as an alternative for imprisonment or can include it as an extension to the imprisonment. In some cases, the fine is included along with imprisonment. Section 63 to 69 covers different fines beneath the IPC. However, as per Section 64 of the Code, when there’s a default within the installment of a fine, the court may order imprisonment.


So “every saint has a past and every sinner has a fortune”, criminals are also a part of the society, so society has to reform and correct them and make them sober citizens and various committees like Malimath Committee, Madhav Menon Committee, and several case laws have recommended the inclusion of a comprehensive and uniform guideline for the pronouncement of punishment i.e. a sentencing policy. This is to ensure that the judiciary will not exercise unbridled discretion of authority while awarding punishment.


1.S.R.Myneni, Law Of Crimes ( Indian Penal Code, 1860), (Asia Law House, Hyderabad, 2009)

  1. Dr.K.I.Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s Criminal Law,(LexisNexis,Haryana,12th ed.,2014).
  2. Shyam Prakash Pandey, Kinds of Punishment under Indian Penal Code: A Critical Evaluation and Need for Reform(2021)(International Journal of Law Management & Humanities) https://www.ijlmh.com/wp-content/uploads/Kinds-of-Punishment-under-Indian-Penal-Code-A-Critical-Evaluation-and-Need-for-Reform.pdf.

Author: Gururaj G Udagi,
Karnataka State Law University, 3rd year Student

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