Different Theories of Punishment under IPC

Mar 19, 2021 #IPC #punishment
Court process law insider

Deergh Uppal

According to the dictionary, punishment entails the state’s legal branch inflicting harm or a levy on the wrongdoer. Since the law is the thread that holds society together, anyone who violates it is a criminal who will be punished. Since punishment is a form of social security, it typically deprives the perpetrator of certain privileges that are normally available. If the main intention of punishment were to cause pain, it would be ineffective.

However, if the penalty causes the wrongdoer to consider the seriousness of his crime, it is said to have achieved the intended result. Punishments are intended to discourage violence by deterring future criminals or stopping the offence from being repeated. An individual can be subjected to a variety of punishments.

The sentence may be anywhere from death penalty to a minor fine. It is important to comprehend punishment philosophies to comprehend various types of punishment. This essay delves into the five myths of punishment, each of which is based around a particular punishment target.

Deterrent Theory of punishment

The word “DETER” in the Deterrent Principle of Deterrence means “to refrain from committing any wrongdoing.” This theory’s primary goal is to “deter” or prevent suspects from committing or repeating the same offence in the future. As a result, it notes that the aim is to prevent criminality by instilling fear; to set or create a precedent for individuals or the whole community by punishing the perpetrator.

According to this hypothesis, if someone commits a crime and receives a severe punishment, the people in the society will become aware of the severe punishments for such types of crimes, and because of this terror in minds of the people in society, the people may refrain from committing some form of crime or wrongful act. Instead of saying “will stop,” I said “can stop.” That means there is a risk you will commit a felony or commit the same one again.

The utilitarian essence of the deterrence principle of retribution is evident. For a clearer explanation, we may conclude, “The man is imprisoned not just because he committed a crime, but also to ensure that the crime is not committed again.” Burnett, J, said it best as he said to a prisoner:

“Thou art to be hanged not for having stolen a horse, but in order that other horses may not be stolen”. 

The deterrence principle seeks to control the crime rate in society by letting future offenders know that it does not pay to commit a crime.

Jurisprudential School of Thought:

The deterrence principle is aligned with the sociological school of law. The sociological school establishes a connection between culture and the law. It implies that rule is a collective phenomenon with a direct or indirect relationship to society. One of the primary goals of deterrence is to set a good precedent for people in society by instilling fear of retribution.

“Who developed this deterrence principle of punishment?” is the most relevant topic today.

Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes (1588-1678), Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), and Jeremy Bentham used the principle of deterrence theory to simplify their study (1748-1832). These proponents of the social contract thinkers provided the foundation of modern deterrence in criminology.

Humans, according to Hobbes, usually follow their self-interests, such as financial wealth, personal welfare, and social status, and make friends in the end, regardless of whether they hurt others. People are motivated to pursue their own self-interests, which also leads to confrontation and opposition in the absence of a suitable government to ensure protection.

To stop this, people promise to give up their egocentrism if everyone does roughly the same thing, which is known as the “Social Contract.” Individuals are fined for breaking the social contract, according to this social contract, giving punishment to those who violate this social contract is justified as to preserve the relationship between the State and the citizens.

When it comes to penalties, Cesare Beccaria believes that the proportion of the offence and the punishments should be equal in order to act as a deterrent or have deterring effect.

Preventive Theory of punishment

The purpose of the prevention philosophy of deterrence is to deter a criminal from committing another offence. It is founded on the idea that a culture must be safeguarded against offenders. This would be accomplished by putting the perpetrator to death, imprisoning him, or suspending his driver’s license, depending on the circumstances.

Consequently, the prevention principle seeks to discourage the criminal from committing a crime straight away. The perpetrator is the object of the incapacitation, and the deterrence comes by distinguishing the criminal from the victim and possible victim, eliminating any opportunities for a crime to be committed. However, whether the restraint is permanent or the defendant is engaged in a rigorous recovery programme, detention will not deter violence, but rather delay it.

Landmark Case Laws for this theory

  1. The Supreme Court held in Dr. Jacob George v. State of Kerala[1] that the aim of punishment should be punitive, reformative, preventive, retributive, and compensatory. It is not a good punishment policy to favour one hypothesis over the other. Each principle of retribution should be applied separately or in combination depending on the case’s merits. “Every saint has a history, and every sinner has a future,” it is often said. Since offenders are an important part of society, it is also the duty of society to improve and correct them to make them active members of society. Since crime avoidance is a significant objective of both culture and law, none of which should be neglected.
  2. Surjit Singh v State of Punjab: In this instance, one of the defendants, a police officer, stormed the deceased’s home with the intent to commit rape but was thwarted when the deceased’s sons shouted for assistance. Another accomplice of the police officer suggested to kill the deceased to remove the evidence. The accused was found guilty under Indian Criminal Code section 450.

Reformative Theory of punishment

The Reformative Theory is based on a hypothesis. According to this theory, the aim of discipline should be to shift the crook through an individualization approach. It is founded on the humanistic idea that a wrongdoer should not cease to be an individual regardless of whether he commits wrongdoing.

In this way, an attempt should be made to alter him or her during his or her incarceration. The aim of the order should be to achieve a moral distinction in the responsible body. He should be ordered to practice some sort of craftsmanship or trade during his imprisonment to have the ability to resume his life after his release from prison.

The Main Purpose Reformative Theory:

The object of this discipline hypothesis is to make the convict focus on his poor conduct. The motive for the discipline is highly personalized in this case and revolves around the individual. The main explanation may be attributed to parole and probation, which are commonly accepted as existing procedures for rehabilitating prisoners all around the world. As a result, proponents of this theory justify incarceration for reasons other than separating hoodlums from civilization and killing them.

Probation, parole, uncertain sentence, exhortation, and pardon are only a few of the specialized reformative disciplinary techniques that are mostly devised for the prosecution of convicted parties based on their mental characteristics. In the case of juvenile misbehavior, first wrongdoers, and women, reformative approaches have proved to be effective. Sex cases often tend to respond well to the reformative disciplinary approach. In recent years, the reformative hypothesis has become more popular as a method for treating intellectually rejected wrongdoers.

Retributive Theory of punishment

According to the retributive doctrine, an individual should be treated in the same way as he treats others. It argues that natural justice requires the concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The fundamental implication in punishment is that the perpetrator must suffer the repercussions of his acts. This is based on the primitive revenge principle, which said that the perpetrator can cause retaliatory damage on the suspect. While private vengeance was abolished due to its cruel nature, the retributive principle persists that the criminal must be punished in some way in order for private vengeance to be avoided.

The moral gratification that society receives after a criminal is convicted, according to this argument, cannot be overlooked. A convict cannot be punished with extreme forbearance so the spirit of revenge will not be met, and private vengeance will be used instead.

This philosophy, on the other hand, struggles to comprehend and eradicate the underlying causes of violence. It also denies the idea that if retribution is motivated by vengeance, defiance will become a way of life in jail.

Landmark Case

  1. The Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi)[2] is the first and only case that comes to mind when discussing retributive justice in India. The Supreme Court sentenced four of the six felons convicted in the heinous Delhi gang rape case to death in this judgement, much to the relief of the public, since they had perpetrated a gruesome and legally unthinkable offence.
  2. Anwar Ahmad vs. Uttar Pradesh State and Others[3] – Before being formally sentenced by the Judge, the convicted had already served a six-month sentence in jail. The Court determined that because the defendant had already been sentenced and had earned the requisite “blemish,” it was unfair to sentence him again in the name of “retributive justice,” since it would bring a substantial loss to the family.
  3. State of West Bengal vs. Sri Ashim Dutta Alias Nilu[4] – In this situation, it was determined that all punitive and retributive punishments tend to avoid repeat offences by imposing exceptional punishment for a specific offence. Civilization and economies, on the other hand, are increasingly evolving. Science and technology continue to grow. People who were literate and specialists in numerous fields of expertise began to think differently. The adage of “an eye for an eye” and “a smile for a tooth” no longer holds true when it comes to dealing with criminals. The laws of the jungle may be perpetuated by certain principles, but the rule of law cannot be guaranteed.

Compensatory Theory of punishment

The primary goal of criminal law is to punish the criminal and/or to pursue his reform and recovery with all available services and sympathy from the courts and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. It must be seen that offenders get adequate punishment for the offences they have committed, as well as the harassment they have caused to the victim, their family members, and their belongings. Victims of violence will be paid for several factors, including:

  • An offender who has inflicted an injury on an individual (or group of individuals) or property must pay the victim for the damage he or she has suffered,
  • The state that has neglected to offer protection to its residents must be compensated for the harm they have incurred.

Compensation is the core of deterrence, reformative, and necessary retributive punishment.

Landmark Case

  • In the landmark case of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal[5], the Supreme Court ruled that a victim who is under the protection of the state has every right to compensation because the officer of the state has violated her Right to Life, which is covered under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • “The Reformative and reparative arguments merit serious attention, where the victim(s) of crime or his family members can be paid from the wages received in jail by the criminal,” Justice Thomas wrote in State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat[6]. The Court recommended that the state pass substantive laws on the payment of restitution to victims of crime.

Utilitarian Theory of punishment

The utilitarian hypothesis of punishment seeks to punish wrongdoers to weaken, or “hinder,” potential bad behaviour. According to the egalitarian principle, rules can be used to increase societal happiness. Since wrongdoing and restraint are incompatible with happiness, they should be kept to a minimum. Utilitarian’s accept that a world devoid of corruption does not exist, but they seek to enforce as much discipline as is possible to deter potential abuses.

The utilitarian hypothesis is inherently “consequentialist.” It believes that discipline has consequences on both the wrongdoer and civilization, and that the discipline’s all-out greatness should triumph over sheer malevolence. Overall, discipline should not be unrestricted. The appearance of a prison detainee suffering from an incapacitating illness is one example of consequentialism of discipline. If the detainee’s death is imminent, humanity is not helped by his continued confinement because he is no longer fit to commit wrongdoings.

According to the utilitarian viewpoint, rules indicating criminal punishment should be designed to deter future criminal activity. Discouragement is effective on both a local and a broad scale. Discouragement in general means that the punishment should prevent people from committing illegal actions. The punishment serves as an example to the rest of society, warning those that criminal behaviour will be punished. Explicit dissuasion means that the discipline should prohibit related people from committing violations in the future.

There are two aspects that explicit avoidance functions. Initially, a convicted party can be sentenced to probation or jail to prevent him/her from committing any crime for a set amount of time. Second, is crippling. It is supposed to be so painful that the accused party would be prevented from repeating her illegal actions.


In this article I have examined the various Punishment Theories in depth. In this article I wrote about the guiding principles that underpin them, how they vary from one another, and some critical case law on the subject. However, we must recognize that discipline is something that can be administered with caution.

We must recognize that inflicting a sentence on someone dramatically affects his emotional, physical, and social condition, as the common saying goes, “Let go of a hundred guilty, rather than execute an innocent.” It has a major negative effect on him and his well-being. As a result, extreme caution must be exercised while conducting criminal justice, or else the very principles of justice would go for a toss.

  1. Jacob George .v. State of Kerala 1994 SCC (3) 430 (India)
  2. Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2017) 6 SCC
  3. Anwar Ahmad vs. Uttar Pradesh State and Others 1976 AIR 680
  4. State of West Bengal vs. Sri Ashim Dutta Alias Nilu (1998) 2 CALLT 338 HC
  5. DK Basu v. State of West Bengal(1997 ) 1 SCC 416
  6. State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat (AIR 1988 AP 295)


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