Under the law, punishment is provided to cease the wrongdoer from committing the crime again. Punishment is a consequence or result of a wrong committed by a person. Provisions for punishment are provided under section 53 and Chapter III of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The section defines various kinds of punishments to which the offenders are liable under the Indian Penal Code. The punishments given under section 53 apply only to offences given under this Code.
The court has the power to reduce the quantum of punishment after considering various aspects of the case and the mitigating circumstances, if any.
In India, the reformative theory is followed to provide punishment. The punishment awarded should neither be so harsh nor so easy that it fails to serve its purpose of generating an impact on the offender and as an eye-opener for others. It is considered that punishment should be of such a nature that it brings reform in a person’s personality and thinking.
Punishments Under Section 53, IPC
The punishments to which offenders are liable under the provisions of this Code are:
- Imprisonment for life.
- Imprisonment, which is of two descriptions, namely:
(I) Rigorous, that is, with hard labour;
- Forfeiture of property.
- Solitary confinement.
As per section 53 of the Indian Penal Code, there are five types of punishments that a court may provide to a person convicted of a crime. These are death, imprisonment for life, simple and rigorous imprisonment, forfeiture of property and fine. And section 73 provides for another type of punishment, that is solitary confinement. Let us learn about all these in detail.
1. Death Punishment
Punishment of death is also known as capital punishment. Under this punishment, a person is hanged till he dies.
This punishment is sanctioned by the government and ordered by the court. It is provided only in the rarest of rare cases. This punishment is provided only for serious offences. A death sentence is the highest punishment awarded under IPC, and it has always been a controversial subject. Arguments are made in favour and against the retention of the capital sentence as a form of punishment.
It was argued in Jagmohan Singh vs the State of Uttar Pradesh that the death penalty is unconstitutional and hence invalid as a punishment. However, the Supreme Court held the death penalty as valid. It held that deprivation of life is constitutionally lawful if done according to the procedure set by law.
Death punishment or capital punishment can be provided for the offences under sections 121, 132, 194, 302, 303, 305, 307, 364A, 376E, 396, and so on of the Indian Penal Code. In these sections, it is not obligatory for the court to provide capital punishment.
Earlier, for the offence provided under section 303, i.e., murder by life convict, capital punishment was compulsory. In Mithu vs the State of Punjab, the death penalty was held unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court in Bachan Singh vs the State of Punjab upheld the validity of the death penalty, but the court restricted the provision of the death penalty to the rarest of rare cases only. If the case falls under this theory, then capital punishment may be given.
The court did not elaborate as to what falls under the category. Still, the court has declared from time to time that the cases like honour killings, assassination, genocide, brutal murder, etc., fall under the definition of ‘rarest of the rare case’.
As per section 54 of the Indian Penal Code, the appropriate government can commute the sentence of death for any other punishment provided by this Code.
2. Imprisonment for Life
The words “imprisonment for life” was substituted for “transportation for life” by Act XXVI of 1955.
In this type of punishment, an accused convicted of a crime has to remain in prison until he is alive or until pardoned or otherwise commuted to a fixed period.
In its natural meaning, imprisonment for life means imprisonment for the whole of the remaining term of the convicted person’s natural life. As per section 57 of the Code, the period for life imprisonment is 20 years only for calculating purposes. Imprisonment for life can never be simple imprisonment; it is always rigorous imprisonment.
Note: What is the reason behind 14 years of imprisonment?
As per section 433(b) of the CrPC and section 55 of the IPC, the appropriate government has the power to reduce or suspend the sentence of imprisonment for life to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years. As the prisoner is under the supervision of the State Government, the State Government has trust in it and in such case, the State Government can appeal for the reduction of the punishment.
Imprisonment means taking away a person’s freedom and putting him in prison. According to section 53 of the IPC, there are two kinds of imprisonment:
- Simple Imprisonment: It is the type of imprisonment where an accused convicted of a crime is kept in prison without any hard labour. They are required to do only light duties. The punishment of simple imprisonment is awarded only for lighter offences such as defamation.
- Rigorous Imprisonment: It is the type of imprisonment under which a prisoner or an accused convicted for a crime is kept in prison, and they have to do hard labour such as agriculture, carpentry, drawing water, etc. Rigorous imprisonment is obligatory for the offences given under the following two sections (no alternative for simple imprisonment is available):
a. Section 194, IPC: Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence.
b. Section 449, IPC: House-trespass in order to commit offence punishable with death.
4. Forfeiture of Property
Forfeiture implies the loss of property of the accused. Under this punishment, the State seizes the property of a criminal. It is the result of the wrong or default caused by the person. The property forfeited may be movable or immovable.
Forfeiture of property as punishment is provided for the offences given under section 126 (committing depredation on territories of power at peace with the Government of India) and section 127 (receiving property taken by war or depredation mentioned in sections 125 and 126).
5. Fine Under IPC
The court may impose the punishment of a fine as sole imprisonment or as an alternative for imprisonment, or in addition to imprisonment. It depends upon the court to decide whether either imprisonment or fine or both are to be awarded in a particular case. According to section 64 of IPC, the court may order imprisonment if a person fails to pay the fine.
6. Solitary Confinement
It is defined under section 73 of the IPC. Solitary confinement means keeping the prisoner isolated and away from any kind of intercourse with the outside world. It is believed that a feeling of loneliness may exert a wholesome (good) influence and reform the criminal. Solitary confinement shall in no case exceed three months in total. The scale, as given in section 73, is as follows:
- If the term of imprisonment is less than or up to six months, then the period of solitary confinement shall not exceed one month.
- If the term of imprisonment is more than six months but less than one year, then the period of solitary confinement shall not exceed two months.
- If the term of imprisonment is of more than one year, then the period of solitary confinement may be up to three months but not beyond that.
It can only be awarded if the following two conditions exist:
- A person must be convicted for an offence under this Code.
- The offence must be the one for which the court has the power to sentence the accused to rigorous imprisonment.
According to section 74 of IPC, the punishment of solitary confinement cannot be awarded for the whole term of imprisonment, and it must be imposed at intervals. A sentence of solitary confinement for the whole term of imprisonment is illegal if awarded for more than 14 days at a time. When the imprisonment awarded is of more than three months, the solitary confinement shall not exceed seven days in any one month of the whole imprisonment awarded.
Charles vs Superintendent, Tihar Jail
In this case, the Supreme Court observed that solitary confinement means the harsh isolation of a prisoner from the society of fellow prisoners by cellular detention. It should be imposed following a fair procedure and only in exceptional cases.