Fine as a Punishment
Written By:- Pulkit Taneja
Punishment is a complex concept, involving aspects of law and society as a whole. The principles behind punishments are proportionality, deterrence, and rehabilitation. In every society, there are rules and norms bound to be followed. Such rules and norms are formulated for the better functioning of society and require institutions to protect and supervise their compliance. The concept of punishment came into existence to regulate the compliance of these rules and norms by imposing sanctions on the person who is convicted of any violation.
Fine as a concept of punishment is relatively more familiar with civil law violations. Considering punishment for a civil law violation seeks compensation for the victim, fines are a primary mode of punishment. In criminal law, fines have found their place nowadays. compensations in a criminal trial are seen to be more frequent than ever. However, many jurists and legal scholars believe that a fine is not a punishment but a penalty.
Punishment is considered to be an outcome of something morally and profoundly wrong, while a penalty is an outcome of a violation of a statute. With respect to the provisions in India, section 53 of the Indian Penal Code list various forms of punishment. These punishments are death, life imprisonment, imprisonment (rigorous or simple), fine, and forfeiture. This article would focus on fine as a punishment.
Fines under IPC
- Fines which have a maximum limit:
The Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1860, and it is essential to understand that whatever amount that the drafters of the IPC fixed then, cannot be considered today. The legislators must amend the number of fines frequently. A fine as punishment must not be taken lightly by offenders. Deterrence is an essential principle behind the concept of punishments, and section 510 of the IPC extends the maximum amount of fine as Rs. 10 if a person is intoxicated and misbehaves in public. If a person commits a crime that is argued to be endangering life and public safety the maximum fine that the court can impose on the person is Rs 250. Such petty amounts cannot and will not work as deterrence in this country’s criminal justice system.
2. Fines that do not have a limit fixed:
The IPC in certain offences also gives the courts flexibility in deciding whether or not a fine is required as a mode of punishment. However, this provision also brings along the challenge of consistency of punishments. Considering, there are no guidelines that are laid down with respect to sentencing imprisonment, and fines, the number of inconsistent punishment patterns has increased throughout the years. The phrase “imprisonment or fine or both” is at the full disposal of the wiseness, lenience, and harshness of the presiding judge.
This argument can be supported by the example Arun Garg v State of Punjab. This is a case that relates to dowry death. The session court apart from the imprisonment sentence declared a fine of Rs. 2000. The High court judge increased this amount to Rs. 200000. On appeal, the supreme court set aside the amount of fine as a whole. This case very interestingly highlights the lack of consistency between the judges regarding sentencing and focuses on the urgent need for legislative action to better re-draft some IPC provisions to accommodate consistent sentencing policies.
3. Fines alternative to imprisonment:
As pointed out above the phrase ‘imprisonment or fine or both’ is at the disposal of the presiding judge. The word ‘or’ makes a fine alternative to imprisonment. Offences like culpable homicide, cannot have this phrase embodied in them. Not only a mere fine could not possibly be compensatory enough for a person’s death but also a fine cannot serve as a deterrence for murder.
Crimes like sexual harassment also include the provision of having fines alternative to imprisonment. There are various cases recorded where the supreme court increased the number of fines and reduced the number of years of imprisonment. In Allanoor v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the accused was presented before the court under section 307 of IPC which reads to attempt to murder.
The Madhya Pradesh High court reduced the sentence to 3 years, a number less than half of the number sentenced initially, and imposed a fine of 10,000. Similarly in the case of Jitendra v State of MP the court when approached with a case of rash driving and death by negligence under section 304 A of the IPC, the court reduced imprisonment to 1 month and increased the fine to Rs 5000. The court also in Vasanti Singh v State of Maharashtra while addressing a case of corruption reduced imprisonment to 1 day and increased the fine to Rs 10000.
The criminal justice system of India is in need of urgent reforms. Fines are an attractive way to penalize against certain offences; however, it leads to inadequacies and inconsistencies in punishments without a proper system and guidelines. The IPC needs to be reformed to increase the number of fines taking into consideration the current economic scenario of this country.
It is also essential to amend punishments for certain offences like Culpable Homicide and Sexual Harassment where fines can be used as an alternative to either reduce the sentences or eliminate them completely. Deterrence is an important aspect of punishments, and for a better society punishment must be made to curb such acts.