Punishments and Its Types Under Indian Penal Code 1860

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Written by: Mr Dhruv Dixit

Definition of Punishment

Just like the word crime which does not have any specific definition, similarly, the word punishment does not have any particular definition.

In criminal law, punishment is any pain, penalty, suffering, or confinement inflicted upon a person by the authority of the law and the judgment and sentence of a court, for some crime or offence committed by him, or for his omission of a duty enjoined by law.

Another definition for punishment is “Some pain or penalty warranted by law, inflicted on a person, for the commission of a crime or misdemeanour, or for the omission of the performance of an act required by law, by the judgment and command of some lawful court.”

A few definitions of crime and if we see a layman then according to the punishment is something given to a person against a crime.

Even in I.P.C there is nowhere punishment is defined but chapter III of the code talks about the punishment which is from S.53 to S.75. S.53 of the code describes the type of punishments an offender can get.

S.53. The punishment to which offenders are liable under the provisions of this code are-

            First- Death;

            Secondly- Imprisonment for life;

            Thirdly- [ Repealed by Act XVII of 1949]

Fourthly- Imprisonment, which is of two descriptions, namely:-

  • Rigorous, that is with hard labour;
  • Simple;

Fifthly- Forfeiture of property

Sixthly- Fine

These are the punishments that can be granted under the offences of I.P.C, for every offence there is specific punishment defined each punishment decided of offence is on the basis of the harm that offence can provide to someone.

There are some examples of each type of punishment given under the offence let us see which punishment is given under what offence.


Death punishment is awarded in the rarest of rare cases. It may be awarded as punishment for the following cases:-

  • Waging war against the Government of India (S. 121)
  • Abetting mutiny actually committed (S. 132)
  • Giving or fabricating false evidence upon which an innocent person suffers death (S. 194)
  • Murder (S. 302)
  • Abetment of suicide of a minor, or an insane or an intoxicated person (S. 305)
  • Dacoity accompanied with murder (S. 396)
  • Attempt to murder by a person under sentence of imprisonment for life, if the hurt is caused (S. 307)

Under these offences, the court can grant the death penalty to an offender.

Imprisonment for life

“Imprisonment for life” in the code means “rigorous imprisonment for life” and not “simple imprisonment for life”.

As to imprisonment for life S. 433-A, Cr.P.C has imposed an embargo on the release of such lifer unless he has served 14 years of imprisonment. Although S.433, Cr.P.C conferred upon the appropriate Government the power to commute the sentence including the death sentence. S. 433-A introduced with effect from December 18, 1978, places a restriction upon the power conferred by S. 432 and 433. Where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death has been commuted under S. 433 to imprisonment for life, he cannot be released unless he has served at least fourteen years of imprisonment. The provision is not retrospective in nature.

S. 433-A obligating actual detention in prison for a minimum of fourteen years of convicts who could have been punished to death but were sentenced to life imprisonment or whose death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment is not ultra vires. It is not violative of Art. 20(1), Constitution of India. It excludes S.432. S.433-A was challenged as legislative fraud. In that Supreme Court case, it was urged that under the provisions of the 1958 Rules, a ‘Lifer’ who has served an actual sentence of about nine years and three months is entitled to be considered for premature release if the total sentence including remissions works out to fourteen years and he is reported to be of good behaviour.

However, the petitioner contends, his case for premature release is not considered by the concerned authorities in view of the newly added S.433-A of the code on the interpretation that by virtue of the said provisions the case of a ‘lifer’ cannot be considered for early release unless he has completed fourteen years of actual incarceration, the provisions of S.432 and S. 433 of the code as well as the 1958 Rules notwithstanding.

According to him, even if the provisions of S. 432 and S. 433 of the code do not come into play unless a convict sentenced to life imprisonment has completed actual incarceration for fourteen years as required by S. 433-A, the authorities have failed to realize that S. 433-A cannot override the constitutional power conferred by Art.72 and Art. 161 of the constitution on the President and the Governor, respectively, and the State Government i.e the Council of Ministers could advise the Governor to exercise power under the Art. 161 treating the 1958 Rules as guidelines.

Since the petitioner has already moved the Governor under Art. 161 of the Constitution it was incumbent on the State Government to consider his request for early release, notwithstanding S. 433-A, and failure to do so entitled the petitioner to immediate release as his continued detention was wholly illegal and invalid. Repealing the contention Supreme Court held that the recommendations in Maru Ram’s case are mere recommendations and not ratio decidendi having the binding effect.

The accused awarded life imprisonment shall be retained in jail for the rest of their life as imprisonment for life means imprisonment for the whole remaining period of the convict’s life. Where any State Act equates life imprisonment with the imprisonment for twenty years that will not entitle convict to automatic release on expiry of such term of imprisonment including the remission. The prisoner could, however, be released if the government passes a separate order to remit the unexpired portion of the sentence.


Imprisonment is of two kinds:

  1. Rigorous
  2. Simple

In the case of rigorous imprisonment, the offender is put to hard labour such as grinding corn, digging the earth, drawing water, cutting firewood, bowing wool, etc. In the case of simple imprisonment, the offender is confined to jail authorities who can impose hard labour on the convict undergoing this kind of imprisonment.

In almost all world constitutions (including ours) Protection against forced labour is subjected to the exception that hard labour imposed on a convicted person would not be forced labour. B.R. Ambedkar in his remaining remarks had said in the constituent assembly that the exception envisaged in sub-clause (2) of Art. 23 of the Constitution regarding the public purpose is very wide enough to contain all such exceptional circumstances.

So the imposition of hard labour is protected from the ban under Art. 23 of Constitution only if it can be justified as a necessity to achieve some public purpose. It is believed that the imposition of hard labour has deterrent effects on prospective criminals or persons with a criminal mentality. In short, putting the prisoner to hard labour while he is undergoing a sentence of rigorous imprisonment is not a beggar or forced labour and it is not a violation of Art. 23 of the Constitution.

The minimum term of imprisonment, however, is fixed in the following two cases:

  • If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, he is punished with imprisonment of not less than seven years. (S. 397)
  • If, at the time of attempting to commit robbery or dacoity, the offender is armed with any deadly weapon, he is punished with imprisonment of not less than seven years (S.398)

Any offender is punished with rigorous imprisonment without the alternative of simple imprisonment, in the cases of:

  • Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of an offence which is capital by this code (S. 194)
  • House-trespass in order to the commission of an offence punishable with death (S. 449)

The following offences are punishable with simple imprisonment only:

  • Public servant unlawfully engaging in trade; or unlawfully buying or bidding for property (S. 168 and S. 169)
  • A person absconding to avoid service of summons or other proceedings from a public servant or preventing service of summons or other proceedings, or preventing publication thereof; or not attending in obedience to an order from a public servant (S. 172, S. 173, S. 174)
  • Intentional omission to produce a document to a public servant by a person legally bound to produce such document; or intentional omission to give notice or information to a public servant by a person legally bound to give assistance (S. 175, S.176, S.187)
  • Refusing oath when duly required to take oath by public servant; or refusing to answer a public servant authorized to question or refusing to sign any statement made by a person himself before a public servant (S.  178, S. 179, S. 180)
  • Disobedience to any order duly promulgated by a public servant if such disobedience causes obstruction, annoyance, or injury (S. 188)
  • Escape from confinement negligently suffered by a public servant; or neglecting omission to apprehend, or negligent sufferance of escape, on the part of a public servant in cases not otherwise provided for (S. 223, S.225-A)
  • Intentional insult or interruption to a public servant sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding (S. 228)
  • Continuance of a nuisance after injunction to discontinue (S. 291)
  • Wrongful restrain (S. 341)
  • Defamation: printing or selling defamatory matter known to be so (S. 500, S. 501, S. 502)
  • Uttering any word, or making any sound or gesture, with an intention to insult the modesty of a women (S. 509)
  • Misconduct in public place by a drunken person (S. 510)

Although the provision for imprisonment is there in every offence mentioned under I.P.C, but these are certain offences under which only rigorous imprisonment is granted.

Forfeiture of Property

The punishment of absolute forfeiture of all property of the offender is now abolished. S. 61 and S. 62 of the Penal Code dealing with such forfeiture are repealed by Act XVI of 1921.

Supreme Court has very recently suggested that cancerous growth of corruption and illegal gains or profits have affected the moral standards of the people and all forms of governmental administration. Therefore it is appropriate time that deleted provisions of S.61 and S.62 providing for the punishment of forfeiture of property are required to be reintroduced by suitable legislative measures so that it may have a deterrent effect on those who are bent upon accumulating wealth at the cost of society by misusing their post or power. There are, however, three offences in which the offender is liable to forfeiture of the specific property. They are S. 126, S. 127 and S.169 of the Code.


Fine is a punishment in many offences of I.P.C but there is very few offences in which the fine is prescribed by the law. The following offences have specified amount of fine prescribed:

  • A person in charge of a merchant vessel, negligently allowing a deserter from the army or navy or air force to obtain concealment in such vessel, is liable to a fine not exceeding Rs.500 (S. 137)
  • The owner or occupier of the land on which a riot is committed or an unlawful assemble is held, and any person having or claiming any interest in such land, and not using all lawful means to prevent such riot or unlawful assembly, is punishable with a fine not exceeding Rs.1000 (S. 154)
  • The person for whose benefit a riot has been committed not having duly endeavored to prevent it (S. 155)
  • The agent or manager of such person under like circumstances (S. 156)
  • False statement in connection with an election (S. 171-G)
  • Illegal payment in connection with an election (S. 171-H)
  • Failure to keep election accounts (S. 171-I)
  • Voluntarily vitiating the atmosphere so as to render it noxious to the public health, is punishable with a fine up to Rs.500 (S. 278)
  • Obstructing a public way or line of navigation, is punishable with a fine not exceeding Rs.200 (S. 283)
  • Committing of a public nuisance otherwise punishable with a fine not exceeding Rs.200 (S. 290)
  • Publication of proposal regarding a lottery, is punishable with a fine not exceeding Rs.1000 (S. 294-A)

These were the few examples where fine is specified in I.P.C

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