This article was written by Saisneha Das a student of National Law University , Odisha.


The final practice of the criminal jurisprudence system refers to the stage of punishment. The fundamental doctrine of criminal law is that, a person is considered to be innocent until he/she is proved to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Once the court is satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence based on the estimation of the evidence, the court decides the punishment and the proportion of punishment to be given. Punishments differ from crime to crime depending upon the degree of severity.[1]

Punishment can be termed to be an authoritative imposition of an undesirable outcome by one or more persons, in response to exhibition of such behaviour as is unacceptable by law. It is given for purposes like retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation. It may include fine, penalty or confinement. Chapter III of the IPC titled ‘Of Punishments’ provide the principles to determine the nature and extent of punishment to be prescribed by the trial court. The chapter is composed primarily of the below-mentioned five broad subject areas:

  • The provisions from sections 53 to 60 specify the various kinds of punishments that courts can award which includes death sentence, life imprisonment and imprisonment for other periods. It provides for the penalization of the accused with simple or rigorous imprisonment. It is also provided, that in special circumstances, that also by the authority of central or state government, the life sentence or death sentence can be commuted.
  • The provisions from sections 63 to 70 relate to the imposition of fines, which also includes the provision for alternate, in cases where fines are not paid and so on.
  • Sections 71 and 72 provide for nature of punishment for offences made up of various offences.
  • Sections 73 and 74 provide for solitary confinement as punishment and limits to its imposition.
  • Enhanced punishment regarding certain offences committed by repeated offenders is provided in section 75.

These provisions define the kind of punishment that can be given depending upon the gravity of the offences which is associated with the sentencing policy of the country.

Lets discuss the types of punishment broadly.

The most ruthless punishment prescribed in the IPC is death sentence. It involves judicial killing or taking the life of the accused as a form of punishment.[2]

The courts can exercise a high range of discretionary powers in passing death sentences. It is also well known as ‘capital punishment.’ This punishment is imposed in rarest of rare cases which are extremely grave. In the case of Jagmohan v. State of U.P.[3] constitutional bench held that death penalty is constitutionally valid.

Prior to 1955, the words ‘transportation of life’ was used. Later it was substituted for ‘imprisonment for life’, which is provided in section 53 of IPC. Punishment under imprisonment for life means, imprisonment for the entire remaining time period of the convicts’ natural life. In KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra [4]   and also in Naib Singh v. State of Punjab  it was stated that imprisonment for life means ‘rigorous imprisonment for life’ where a convict is imprisoned till his last breath.

It is often a mistaken belief that imprisonment for life is for 14 years or 20 years but there is no provision in IPC which states so. There is no automatic release of the convict on the completion of such period. However, on special occasions, government may pass an order of the release of the life convict on consideration of his good behaviour and conduct.

Offences which are defined in the IPC for which rigorous imprisonment can be imposed by the courts are: house trespass (s 449); giving false evidence with the intention to procure conviction of such offence which is capital in nature; etc.

Rigorous punishment is the form of the punishment whereby convict is made to do hard labour, for example, cutting stones, drawing water, digging earth, agriculture, etc. The Supreme Court has also suggested minimum wages[5] for convicts put to do hard labour.

While disposition of the Bombay Blast Case (2007), the trial court sentenced Sanjay Dutt, a Bollywood actor, to rigorous imprisonment for a period of six years. Till the time he got the bail, he did carpentry work for 30 days and earned minimum wages.

The trial court, while disposing the case of Sunit Batra v. Delhi Administration  (1980) , the Supreme

Court observed that: “Hard labour under section 53 of IPC should be conceived of its humane meaning.

Fine is the confiscation of money by way of penalty. It can be imposed with or without the imprisonment. Several offences are give under IPC for which fine is imposed. [6]

Section 63 of the IPC prescribes the amount the fine that should be imposed. According to this section, where no limit is prescribed as to the amount of fine, the amount of fine to which the offender is liable is unlimited but it should not be excessive.

Section 64 provides that Court is empowered to impose imprisonment on such convict in case of the default of payment of fine on his part and such imprisonment shall be in excess of any other imprisonment to which he may have been sentenced or to which he may be liable under a commutation of a sentence.

Section 65 prescribes that the term for which the Court commands the offender to be imprisoned in default of payment of a fine shall not exceed one- fourth of the term of imprisonment which is the maximum term fixed for the offence, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment as well as fine.

Section 66 specifies that the imprisonment which is imposed by the Court in default of payment of a fine may be of any description to which the offender might have been sentenced for the offence.[7]

Section 67 lays down that if the offence is punishable with fine only, the imprisonment which the Court will impose in default of payment shall be simple, and the term for which the Court instructs the offender to be imprisoned, in default of payment of fine, shall not exceed the following scale – If the fine is not exceeding fifty rupees – the term of imprisonment shall not exceed two months.

 [1] P S A Pillai, Criminal Law , Ed. 11, Lexisnexis publications, 2010.

[2] See, Law Commission of India, ‘Thirty-Fifth Report: Capital Punishment’, Government of India, 1967

AIR 1973 SC 947

AIR 1962 SC 605

[6] See Macaulay, Macleod, Anderson and Millett, A Penal Code prepared by the Indian Law Commissioners, Pelham Richardson, 1838, Note A, p97

[7] P S A Pillai’s Criminal Law

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