Types of Punishment

Dec 14, 2020


Awarding punishment for the crime is very important as it creates a criminal justice system and peaceful social order. Punishment gives justice to the sufferer as it's a way through which an offender can be stopped from doing offences. The protection of society is the object of the law, and it can be achieved only by imposing appropriate sentences. Crime is not just a violation of the law, but it results in a violation of the right of one person by another. 

Under Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, five different kinds of punishments awarded are: 

  • Death
  • Life Imprisonment 
  • Simple or rigorous imprisonment
  • Fine
  • Forfeiture of property

Section 53 to 75 of IPC gives general provisions related to punishment for different offences. Section 63 to Section 70 incorporates the provisions related to the imposition of fines and any alternative sentence, in case fines are not paid. 

The punishment for  'solitary confinement' has been laid down under Section 73 and 74  and spells out the limitation about its imposition. Section 75 lays down the provision related to certain offences when committed by a repeat offender. 

  1. Death Sentence  

Death sentence/ Capital Punishment is wherein the offender/accused is executed to death after he has been found guilty of a heinous crime. Apex court in Macchi Singh V. State of Punjab expanded the finding laid down in Bacchan Singh, that death sentence can only be awarded in rarest of the rare case, it may be enforced only when life sentence seems to be sufficient for the crime committed by the offender, and both mitigating and aggravating factors must be considered while railing in favour of death sentence. 

The death sentence may be awarded for the offences under sections 34, 109, 120-B 121, 132, 149, 194, 302, 305, 307, 364-A, 376-E and 396 of the IPC. 

  1. Life Imprisonment   

Life imprisonment is wherein the culprit has to be in prison for his entire life, and the period for it cannot be less than 14 years. Life imprisonment is always rigorous and never simple. 

It can be awarded under sections 121, 121-A, 122, 124-A, 125, 128, 130, 131, 132, 194, 195, 195-A, 222, 225, 232, 238, 255, 302, 304, 305, 307, 311, 313, 314, 326, 329, 364, 364 -A, 371, 376, 377, 388, 389, 394, 395, 396, 400, 409, 412, 433, 436, 437, 449, 460, 472, 474, 475, 477 and 511 of the Indian Penal Code. 

  1. Simple or Rigorous Imprisonment 

The framers of the India Penal Code have envisaged two kinds of imprisonment: 

  • Rigorous and 
  • Simple

Rigorous imprisonment for a specified duration is awarded in offences of serious nature, like in cases of Section 449 or Section 194 of the Indian Penal Code. During this imprisonment period, the convicts are made to do hard labour such as digging the earth, breaking stones, agriculture, etc. This imposition of hard labour is expected to have a deterrent effect on the behaviour of the criminals. 

Simple imprisonment is when the offender is made to do light duties, that is, are not required to do hard labour. The prisoners that are sentenced to simple imprisonment are given work based on their physical fitness and their request. Simple imprisonment is imposed for offences under section 168, 169, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 178, 179, 180, 187, 188, 223, 225-A, 228, 291, 341, 500, 501, 502, 509 and 510 of the code. 

  1. Fine 

The imposition of the fine has been prevalent since the inception of the tribal system, and it is at the discretion of the court to decide as to whether imprisonment or fine or both are to be awarded. However, while imposing fine, the court has to keep in mind certain factors, including the nature of the offence, capacity of the offender to pay and usefulness of fine imposition. In the case of Ashok Kumar v. The Apex court held that "payment of fine brings home the sense of responsibility in a surer fashion than even brief terms of imprisonment in some cases." The Indian Penal Code and several other Indian statutes have affixed levying of fine as an alternative as well as the punishment. 

Fine is the only punishment provided under section 154,  155, 156, 171-G, 294-A, 137, 171-H, 171-I, 278, 263 -A, 283 and 29 of Indian Penal Code. Under section 154 and 294-A, the maximum limit of the fine is Rs. 1000/- only. Under section 137, 171-H, 171-I, and 278 the maximum fine is Rs. 500/- only and for section 263-A, 283, and 290 the maximum limit of the fine has been fixed at Rs. 200/- only. 

  1. Forfeiture of Property 

The Indian Penal Code has provided forfeiture of property as it has repealed Section 61 and Section 62, which imposed the punishment awarding for forfeiture of property. However, IPC provides for forfeiture of property as a punishment under section 126, 127 and 169 of the code. 


Thus, this punishment helps to bring society with a better criminal system and provides justice. However, as there is an increase in types of offences, better codification of these offences are required.  There should be less ambiguity, biasness and more of fair sentencing policy.