Punishments under Indian Penal Code


Punishment is defined as inflicting some kind of a loss on the wrong-doer with the purpose that the wrong doer does not commit the crime or offence again and as an example for the others so as to prevent them from committing the wrong. It is a way for retribution for the offender as per the law. Punishments are categorised into deterrent or preventive, restorative, retributive and rehabilitative. The punishments are just a way to secure the society from undesirable elements which commit the offence.

Under the Indian penal code which covers the all the substantive parts of the criminal law, punishment against the crimes have been discussed under sections 53 to 75. As per section 53 punishment there are five types of punishments available. The five types of punishments are- death penalty, life imprisonment, imprisonment, forfeiture of property, fine. Herein the maximum time frame of the punishment is mentioned but the minimum can be decided upon by the judge. The judge holds the complete right to decide upon a sentence which will provide justice.

These punishments are given out by the courts following a certain procedure and provisions given under laws. Punishments are defined under chapter III of the Indian Penal Code.  Sections 63 to 70 discuss about fine imposition and another sentences wherein fines are not paid and under section 75 provisions relating to situations when certain crimes are committed by repeated wrong-doers are talked about. The sentencing of a person depends upon the gravity, seriousness and the effect the crime is going to have on public’s peace and tranquillity


DEATH PUNISHMENT– in this type of punishment the court orders the execution of the accused. It is also termed as capital punishment. This punishment is the punishment of gravest nature. Death penalty can be given by the method of hanging or shooting. These are ordered in “rarest of rare” cases.  The court thinks upon two questions in case of death penalty first, the crime has an uncommon element which renders the life imprisonment inadequate and death penalty is to be imposed and second, even after giving the most weightage to the mitigating factors favouring the accused death penalty is the only option.

Also, the circumstance of the offender when the crime was committed has to be taken into account as well as when the crime of the most serious nature has taken place the death penalty can be given. The president and the governor under articles 72 and 161 have the power to grant mercy though governor doesn’t hold the power regarding the court martial as by the president under article 72. It is a legal penalty in India.

It can be imposed for the crimes covered under sections 120B, 121, 132, 194, 302,303, 305, 364A, 396, 376AB and 376A of Indian penal code, Part II section 4 of the commission of sati prevention act,1987, 31A of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance act, 1985, 42 of POCSO and criminal amendment act, 2013 and Bombay protection Gujrat amendment act, 2009 (in Gujrat only).

Accuse has the right to be heard then they can appeal in supreme court under section 379 of code of criminal procedure after the high court has consented to the death sentence as per article 136 and the accused also may plead for commutation etc under section 433 and 434 of code of criminal procedure. Some points the prisons keep in mind for execution are giving the prisoner proper food and examination of health twice in a day, to make sure he can’t attempt suicide the ropes are to tested and described etc.

LIFE IMPRISONMENT– this punishment was earlier known as the transportation for life but after the code of criminal procedure (amendment) act 1955 it came to be known as imprisonment for life. It goes on for about the complete life of the prisoner. It is a rigorous imprisonment not a simple one.

Life imprisonment is minimum for fourteen years and it is for the period of life time of the offender but as per section 55 of Indian penal code the appropriate government can commute the sentence of prisoner and under 433 and 433A of the code of criminal procedure life imprisonment is not limited to fourteen years and the appropriate government can commute the sentence. The convict has to serve the period of fourteen, twenty, thirty or life time in prison but the appropriate government can commute the sentence for the prisoner without the offender’s consent.

If the matter is related to union list central government commutes the order otherwise the state government commutes it. The sentence of the prisoner is decided depending on the behaviour, health etc.  As per section 55 of the Indian penal code- it talks about the commutation of the sentence of the prisoner for a period less than fourteen years and section 433A of code of criminal procedure says that reduced sentence can’t be less than fourteen years and the prisoner have to at least serve fourteen years in prison.

IMPRISONMENT– it means taking away the freedom of the convict and keeping them into prison. There are two kinds of imprisonments- rigorous and simple. Rigorous imprisonment refers to hard labour work like cutting wood whereas simple imprisonment means the prisoner is not required to do hard labour work and it is generally for petty crimes like defamation etc. It is up-to the court to decide whether the imprisonment would be completely or partially rigorous, partly or completely simple or any part which is rigorous and the rest as simple.

The least duration of time of imprisonment is twenty-four hours but few offences have the minimum period fixed as seven years. The prisoners working in the prison during imprisonment get paid for the work they do. The work can be voluntary or as part of their punishment. The get paid on a day to day basis.

Solitary confinement is covered under section 73 of the Indian penal code. It refers to the situation when the prisoner is completely isolated from everyone. It is an offence punishable under rigorous punishment only. It can be given for three months. If the time period in prison for six months solitary confinement is cannot exceed more than one month. If the serving term is more than six months nut less than a year the solitary confinement can’t exceed two months and in-case of a year it can’t be more than three months.

As per section 74 the solitary confinement can’t exceed more than fourteen days in a go and in case the it exceeds more than three months it cannot exceed more than seven days a month. It has to be given at intervals.

FORFEITURE OF PROPERTY-it means when the property is taken away due to the crime or default of a person in matters of contract, or giving penalty for some illegal conduct. It is the result of some illegal act or default. It abolished for some section under Indian penal code (amendment) act, 1921 but it is still applicable in cases of sections 126 and 127 of the code.

FINE– fine has been in the country since the time of tribal system in the civilization. It can be issued independently or along with imprisonment and is decided by the courts. They are given out for many sections in the code. Amount of fine is not described under and though it is not prescribed and unlimited under section 63 it should not be too much or excessive. For some sections maximum amount of fine is fixed like in case of section 154 and 294A maximum limit of fine is Rs.1000/-.

When the fine is not paid the sentence of imprisonment is covered under section 64 wherein imprisonment with fine, imprisonment or fine or fine only and where the convict is sentenced to fine or imprisonment or both. The court decides the sentence for a particular thing out of the three and under section 66 the court can decide the description of the sentence. As per section 65 there is a limit of imprisonment which can’t be more than one-fourth of the total term of imprisonment in case of imprisonment plus fine for the offender because of the non-payment of fine.

Under section 67 for the non-payment of fine the offences which are sentenced with fine are dealt with. Herein the imprisonment should be simple and the scale of fine should be term will not exceed two months in case the fine does not exceed 50/-,in case the fine shall not be more than 100/- the term is not of more than four months and if the amount is more than 100/- the term for imprisonment should not exceed six months. As per section 421 of code of criminal procedure the court can take steps to recover the fine.


There is a uniform method of providing punishment to the offenders. It can be observed the Indian penal code and code for criminal procedure have tried to cover every possible aspect so as the justice is served. Also, a change has been observed in respect to penal code with the emergence of juvenile justice act ,2000 children’s act, abolition of whipping act etc. also, section 72 of Indian penal code when there is doubt about the offence which has taken place and getting the evidence is tough for the crime committed by the offender court are to give lowest punishment.

If the punishment is given out carefully and in an appropriate manner then justice can be served. Also, with Indian code and code of criminal procedure the judicial system has a strong base to provide justice.

Author: Lavanya Goel,
Symbiosis Law School, Noida

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