Concept of Punishment under Indian Penal Code,1860

Section 53 of The Indian Penal Code ,1860

Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 , specifically deals with different types of punishments which can be given by the Criminal Courts if the person is held liable under the Code. There are five kinds of punishments stated under Section 53 of the Code:

-Death

-Imprisonment for life

-Imprisonment

-Rigorous Imprisonment 

-Simple Imprisonment

-Forfeiture of property

-Fine

Considering the above punishments, the courts are supposed to follow the procedures and provisions which are prescribed under other adjective and substantive laws. 

As per the scheme of the Code the maximum punishment is prescribed, leaving the minimum to the discretion of the Judge. The Judge has all the means to form an opinion on the sentence which would meet the end of justice in a particular case. If the offence is grave in nature then the Code had prescribed the maximum and the minimum duration of the punishment.

In Sat Pal vs. State of Haryana and Ors. it was stated that Imprisonment for life” as one of the punishments was substituted for “transportation for life” in Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code by Amending Act 26 of 1955. No corresponding amendment has been made in the CrPC, 1973 and there is no provision under the Code for the execution of the sentence of “imprisonment for life”.

In the absence of any provision for executing the sentence of “imprisonment for life” in the PC the detention of life convicts in prison is unlawful and illegal and as such the Government, in order to legalise detention, has necessarily to commute life sentence under Section 55 Indian Penal Code or Section 433(b)CrPC, 1973 to one of the rigorous imprisonment, which under the said provisions cannot legally exceed a term of 14 years. The petitioner having completed 14 years, he is entitled to be released.

Section 54 of The Indian Penal Code,1860

According to section 54 of Indian penal code, In every case in which sentence of death shall have been passed, the appropriate Government may, without the consent of the offender, commute the punishment for any other punishment provided by this Code.

In SUREKHA BIBHISHAN MAGAR V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA AND ANOTHER it was stated that the question of commutation of death penalty either under section 54 of Indian Penal Code or under section 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, arises only after the death penalty is confirmed by the competent Court. It is only thereafter that the question of commutation arises and as per the said provisions, the appropriate Government can commute such death penalty to any other sentence. In the case at hand, therefore, the death penalty is not commuted to that of life imprisonment, but on the other hand, the extreme sentence of death provided by the Sessions Court has been set aside and it stood substituted by the sentence of life imprisonment.

In VITHAL V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA it was ststed that there is no semblance of evidence on record to show that accused is entitled to seek bereft of exception carved out under section 54 of Indian Penal Code. Thus, in our view; accused is guilty for offence punishable under section 302r/w 307 of Indian Penal Code.

Section 55 of The Indian Penal Code,1860 

Commutation of sentence of imprisonment for life — In every case in which sentence of 1.[imprisonment] for life shall have been passed, 

2.[the appropriate Government] may, without the consent of the offender, commute the punishment for imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

Section 55A. defines “appropriate Government”. In sections 54 and 55 the expression “appropriate Government” means—

(a) in cases where the sentence is a sentence of death or is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the execu­tive power of the Union extends, the Central Government; and

(b) in cases where the sentence (whether of death or not) is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends, the Government of the State within which the offender is sentenced.]

In Niranjan Dadarao Punwatkar v. State Of Maharashtra . it was stated that premature release is governed by section 55 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 433(B) of Criminal Procedure Code, but subject to section 433(A) of Criminal Procedure Code. Well, the relief that the prisoner is trying to seek is not available to him in the sense that the “14 years Rule” introduced by amending Criminal Procedure Code and enacting section 433(A) does not leave any choice with the State. State can consider premature release of prisoner only if he has actually been in prison for 14 years.

In SENDHAJI MATHURJI AND ORS. V. STATE OF GUJARAT AND ORS it was stated that we may in passing observe that Section 433A does not produce any impact upon Section 54 and Section 55 of Indian Penal Code which respectively provide in cases specified in them for commutation of sentence of death and commutation of sentence of imprisonment for life. The scheme of Section 433A is, therefore, that the convicts undergoing imprisonment for life must undergo fourteen years’ servitude in jail after which they may be released by the State Government in exercise of its power under Section 432(1).

Section 57 of Indian Penal Code ,1860 (Fractions of terms of punishment)

In calculating fractions of terms of punishment, [imprisonment] for life shall be reckoned as equivalent to [imprisonment] for twenty years.

Section 57 of Indian Penal Code 1860  states that in calculating fractions of terms of imprisonment, imprisonment for life shall be reckoned as equivalent to imprisonment for 20 years. Section 57 does not say that imprisonment for life shall be deemed to be transportation for 20 years. For all purposes, imprisonment for life must, prima facie, be treated as imprisonment for whole of the remaining period of the convicted person’s natural life.

In Lakkhi v. State of Rajasthan, the High Court of Rajasthan stated that life imprisonment means imprisonment for life till the convicts breathes his last unless such sentence is commuted under various provisions of Acts and Rules. He has no right to be automatically released after fourteen or twenty years. Under section 57 of the Code life imprisonment does not mean imprisonment for twenty years for all purposes but only for calculating fractions.

Section 55 empowers appropriate government to commute sentence of life imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. But this does not mean that life imprisonment is imprisonment for fourteen years and prisoner would be automatically released after fourteen years. Even life convicts can be released from prison under the Rajasthan Prisoners (Shortening of Sentences) Rules, 1958 and the Rajasthan Prisoners’ (Release on Parole) Rules, 1958.

In Shri Bhagwan v. State of Rajasthan, it was stated that there was robbery and murder of five members of a family in a house. Series of injuries were caused to deceased persons by using different household articles as weapons. The Supreme Court held that the case was not rarest of rare kind and awarded imprisonment for life with the direction that since the offences were heinous and barbaric, in no case the twenty year old accused be released before completing twenty years in prison.

Section 60 of The Indian Penal Code,1860

It is stated that the sentence may be (in certain cases of imprisonment) wholly or partly rigorous or simple.—In every case in which an offender is pun­ishable with imprisonment which may be of either description, it shall be competent to the Court which sentences such offender to direct in the sentence that such imprisonment shall be wholly rigorous, or that such imprisonment shall be wholly simple, or that any part of such imprisonment shall be rigorous and the rest simple.

In CHANNA SINGH V. THE STATE OF PUNJAB AND ANR  It has further been held that Section 60, Indian Penal Code, was inapplicable and the Court had no choice in the quality of sentence. “Imprisonment for life” was always meant to be “rigorous imprisonment for life” in Section 60, Indian Penal Code. In several other provisions of the said Code the Court has power to impose an imprisonment for either description, i.e. rigorous or simple or even partly one and partly the other. The under-trial period obviously does not entail any labour under strict discipline whereas rigorous imprisonment partakes that character Simple imprisonment, on the other hand, involves no such rigour.

In CHITRA KUMAR V. SENIOR SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE, ALIGARH it was stated that it is also not in dispute that the judgment in the chiminal case does not use the word “rigorous.” Section 60 of the Indian Penal Code provides that in every case in which an offender is punishable with imprisonment which may be of either description, it shall be competent to the Court which sentences such offender to direct in the sentence that such imprisonment shall be wholly rigorous or that such imprisonment shall be wholly simple or that any part of such imprisonment shall be rigorous and the rest simple. The judgment in the present case has not indicated that imprisonment would be rigorous.

Author: Megha Jain

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