Punishments in India

Punishments in India: All You Need to Know

This article on ‘Punishments in India 2022: All You Need to Know’ is written by an Intern at Legal Upanishad.


This article primarily focuses on the aspects of different crimes and the punishments in India for them. The laws enforcing these punishments in India are also discussed. It focuses on the origin and concepts of punishments in India. Every country has various laws and regulations which grant various punishments to criminals. Also, civil crimes are faced in our country. Punishment for these crimes ranges from as basic as imprisonment and fines. Punishment is useful to make wrongs into rights. These punishments have been used to transform society from an uncivilized society to a civilized one. As societies, states, countries have been advancing the range and severity of punishments have been changing accordingly to improve the social system in the country.


Human beings have evolved from living in caves to living in tribes and now living in societies and cities. The concept of society, states, countries have taken shape and are followed overall. Human beings have been living in groups or as you can say tribes which evolved into families and villages since the start. With the settling of humans and forming of groups there came into existence misdoings, crimes, and mistakes by humans. This led to the formation or origination of punishments and law and order in the legal system.



In the age of kings and their kingdoms, crimes were punished by the courts through extreme methods. There were two forms of punishment known as Capital and Corporeal punishment. Capital punishment was considered the extreme form of punishment in the ancient age. They were categorized as death penalties, beheading, throwing under elephants leg, etc. However, these were torturous methods to punish people.

Corporeal punishments were lesser extreme punishments as compared to capital punishments. Some or any kind of pain was caused to the criminal to make others avoid doing such crimes. These methods were considered extreme and with the development of the legal system, these punishments in India were opposed.


With the settling of British and foreign rulers, new legal systems were introduced in India. The Indian Penal Code was introduced in 1860 by the British. Changes and amendments were made in the forms of punishment in India through sec 53 of the IPC 1860. These included death, imprisonment for life, rigorous imprisonment, simple imprisonment, fines, injunction, etc. These punishments and codes took form and shape with the going period and were developed into the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Code of civil procedure was also introduced by the law. These two codes took shape into the primary laws for maintaining peace and civility and punishing miscreants.


The Code of Criminal Procedure was introduced in the year 1973 for the administration and regulating the criminal law in India. It is the law governing punishments. This act applies to the whole of India including Jammu and Kashmir after the curtailing of Article 370 of the constitution. This act applies to the Supreme court, High court, District and session court, and all other magistrates in India. These courts follow the code in case of criminal cases. Various punishments are given under the code.

In many cases to avoid punishments in India, bail is granted to the accused. Under the code, death punishment is given in the rarest cases. Also, death punishment is replaced by life imprisonment in many cases. The death sentence can be termed capital punishment. Recently summary trails are being provided to ensure fast disposal of cases by the authorities. However, these trials do not render punishments as harsh as death or life imprisonment. The code offers the accused to appeal against the decision given by the courts. However, these appeals are applicable only in severe conditions.

Hence various terms and methodologies are mentioned in the Criminal Code and it is the primary law governing crimes in India.



Life imprisonment entails that the person should be kept imprisoned in jail for the rest of his living life. There are also different types of imprisonment which can be classified as rigorous imprisonment, simple imprisonment, etc. Rigorous imprisonment requires the accused to do hard labor during their course of imprisonment. In simple imprisonment, simple jail time needs to be served by the criminal.


Fine demands the liable person to pay a certain sum of money to the person who has suffered losses. This punishment can be served along with imprisonment also. In many cases where a fine does not properly compensate the claimant, the court requires to serve jail time along with payment.


In case of forfeiture, the accused is required to give away his property as paying a fine cannot properly compensate the loss suffered by the claimant. The court forcefully takes away any property or documents of property of the accused and he is stripped away from his ownership over the property.


There are various theories of punishments in India. The primary 4 theories are – deterrent theory, retributive theory, preventive theory, reformative theory. The retributive theory requires that when the offender commits a crime, he should be punished with an equal degree of punishment to understand the severity of his acts.

The deterrent theory believes that deciding punishment for an act creates a fear in the mind of the person wishing to commit the crime which naturally deters the risk of crimes being committed by individuals in society.

The preventive theory promotes the capital punishment of death or life imprisonment by aiming to completely prevent or remove the crime by destroying its source. Reformative theory is the opposite of all theories and believes that the law should not find ways to penalize the criminals but to reform their actions by various reformative methodologies. These theories have their objectives and own rules and regulations. There are many other theories and each serves to reduce crime by their methodologies.


Punishments are considered an efficient way to regulate crimes in society. They are prevailing in society since the ancient ages. Every religion has its ways of punishing miscreants. These methods have evolved through ages and generations. The legal system evolves the punishments in India and ensures that right and responsible decisions are given by the states. Though the codes and laws have introduced different sets of punishments, there is still a rise in crimes.

There are still crimes being committed even after the introduction of rigorous punishments in India such as death, life imprisonment, etc. The legislature rather than increasing the degree of punishments should make the people aware of their mistakes and the negative effects of the same on society. Awareness is more effective than punishing people.


1) Ashika Ranjan, Evolution of the Process of Punishments in India, (2021), https://www.ijlmh.com/paper/evolution-of-the-process-of-punishment-in-india/#:~:text=The%20Indian%20Penal%20Code%20was,used%20in%20the%20modern%20India.&text=In%20the%20modern%20India%2C%20it,Code%20of%20Criminal%20Procedure%2C%201973.

2) Meera Patel, The History of Punishments in India, (2021), https://blog.ipleaders.in/the-history-of-punishment-in-india/

3) Anshumaan, Punishments: Origin & Jurisprudence, (2021), http://www.legalservicesindia.com

4) Code of Criminal Procedure, https://en.m.wikipedia.org