The Penal Law of India is the resource of definitions and descriptions of substantive offences. It consists of 511 sections specifying different kinds of offences. For these massive number of offences the punishment prescribed are mainly 5 in numbers. Every offences describes the punishment also. But in general the division is provided under Section 53 of IPC. They are as follows:
The punishments to which offenders are liable under the provisions of this Code are-
- Imprisonment for life
- Imprisonment both rigorous and simple
- Forfeiture of property
(1) Death Penalty
It is the most grave penalty imposed by IPC. Many sections still prescribe the punishment of death. Some of them are as follows:
(a) Offence under Section 194 IPC where a person gives false evidence with intention to cause any person to be convicted of capital punishment and if an innocent person is convicted and executed in consequence of such false evidence, the person who gives such false evidence shall be punished with death or life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment and fine.
(b) Offence of murder for which punishment of death or imprisonment of life is prescribed under Section 302.
(c) Offence of murder committed by life convict as described in Section 303. This section has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Mithu v. State of Punjab[AIR 1983 SC 473]. The peculiarity of this Section is that punishment of death only is provided. No other alternative punishment is seen provided.
(d) Offence of abetting suicide of child or insane person as mentioned in Section 305 IPC where death is a punishment with other alternative punishments.
(e) In Section 307 when a life convict attempts to murder and hurt is caused Death Sentence may be imposed.
(f) Kidnapping for ransom as described under Section 364A may be met with punishment of Death alongwith other alternative punishments.
(g) If any one of five or more person s who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death along with other alternative punishments.
In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab[AIR 1980 SC 898] hon'ble Supreme Court of India held that death sentence is to be given only in rarest of rare cases.
(2) Life Imprisonment
Living behind the bars are sometimes far more painful than death sentence. It is the most popular type of sentence after death penalty. In most serious offences this type of punishment is prescribed. Wherever death penalty is prescribed, life imprisonment also finds a place as an alternative punishment. As there is hue and cry regarding imposing of death penalty, in appropriate cases Courts impose life imprisonment as a safe method. Some sections which impose Life Imprisonment as a penalty are : Sections 194, 255, 304, 304(B), 305, 307, 311, 313, 314, 326, 329, 364, 364(A), 376, 377, 394, 395, 396, 400, 409, 412, 413, 436, 449, 459, 460, 467, 472, 477, 489A, 489B, 489D and 511.
(3) Imprisonment both rigorous and simple.
Rigorous imprisonment is of such type where the convict will have to do hard labour. In many offences the period of imprisonment varies. In simple imprisonment also the term of imprisonment varies according to offences.
(4) Forfeiture of Property
Forfeiture of property is not very common in IPC. Section 61 which specified sentence of forfeiture of property has been repealed by Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 1921. In the present IPC three sections viz 126, 127 and 129 describes forfeiture of property.
IPC prescribes fine as a penalty both independent and along with other penalties. The amount of fine varies with offences. Section 63 says that where no sum is expressed to which a fine may extend, the amount of fine to which the offender is liable is unlimited, but shall not be excessive. Sentence for non-payment of fine is also dealt with in IPC[Sec.64].
Thus there are various penalties as discussed above which are imposed differently in different offences. The term, nature, amount etc varies in each cases and offences and also according to Courts. Although all types of punishments like retributive, reformative, preventive, deterrent are provided in IPC it is stated that reformative approach to punishment should be the object of criminal law.[AIR 1978 SC 1542]