Theories and types of punishment in India

20 Sep 2022  Read 841 Views

Humans have always been capable of dreaming brutal ways to punish alleged witches, offenders, etc. Even the penal system in ancient India had also been very ruthless. So, it would not be wrong to say that for ages, extremely violent and brutal methods of execution and punishments have come and gone in the entire world; few of these included pushing off the cliff, being crushed by an elephant, boiling method, blood eagle, and whatnot. 

Historically the use of grave punishments is much older compared to the use of imprisonment or incarceration. Imprisonment is a punishment because an individual is removed from society and confined behind bars with other criminals. However, it is a milder punishment than many other forms used for centuries, like capital punishment or the death penalty. So, this article will discuss the types of punishment in ancient India to boost up your knowledge, theories of punishment, and many more. So, stay tuned till the end.

Types of punishment in Ancient India

Punishments have ranged from the most severe penalty to the death penalty (painful) to the payments of fines (painless) for every offense committed. Looking at the records, Amnesty International recorded 579 executions in 18 countries in 2021, an increase of 20% from 2020. This represented the second lowest number of executions recorded by Amnesty International since 2010. The types of punishment prevalent in India were:

punishment in india

1. Death Penalty 

Capital punishment means the legal and authorized killing of someone as a punishment for an offense, that is, the death penalty for a crime. Previously, in ancient times, capital punishment was executed for every small crime. But, it is given only in the rarest of rare cases. Some of the forms of capital punishment used in ancient times were:

  • Stoning: It was a method of capital punishment in which a group of people throws stones at a person until he dies. This is somehow still prevalent in Islamic countries etc. 

  • Pillory:  In ‘Pillory,’ the criminal was forced to stand in a public place with his head and hands locked in an iron frame so that he couldn’t move, and then he was whipped, branded or stoned, etc.

  • Immurement:  Here, the offender was constructed into a wall making it the most barbaric and painful form of execution of the death penalty. 

  • Crushing by elephant: Under this punishment, the offender was thrown under the feet of an intoxicated elephant for being crushed.

2. Corporal Punishment

This type of punishment involves physical pain in the body. (Corporal is derived from the Latin corpus, meaning “physical body.”) It is also as old as capital punishment. Example: cutting off the hands of thieves; whipping and flogging etc. The aim of this punishment is not only to punish the offender but also to prevent the repetition of the offense. Some of it is:

  • Flogging: This means ‘beating or whipping’ someone with a stick. In India, it was recognized under the Whipping Act of 1864, which was ultimately abolished in 1955. 

  • Mutilation: It involves causing severe damage to a person's body, such as removing a part of the body. For example: In the ancient period, one or both of the hands of the offender were chopped off.

  • Imprisonment:  The kind of imprisonment that you see today is absolutely different from the kind of imprisonment which was awarded in the ancient period. For example: tying the hands and legs of offenders & throwing them in a dry well. 

3. Social Punishment

It is a punishment in which a person is restricted from making any kind of contract with other persons or to move him to other places where he has no contract with the other persons who can help him in any manner otherwise, he is also liable for the punishment for it. Its forms are:

  • Banishment: Banishment means to expel a person. In this, the criminals were transported to far-off places for isolation. This practice was abolished in 1955 and was replaced with “Imprisonment for life.” 

To learn more about the types of punishment in India along with the other provisions, don't miss to enroll on our IPC Course.

  • Social Boycott: It means an act of forcing a person to abstain from any kind of contact with other people in society. 

Did you know? Under this form, smoking ‘Hukkah’ was considered a means for social gatherings in society.  But offenders were not allowed to participate in smoking ‘Hukkah’ with the rest of the people, thus boycotting them. 

4. Financial Punishment

We can also refer to it as imposing for fine. It was a common way of punishment that was generally assigned for the breach of traffic rules, revenue laws, & petty crimes. IPC, even today, prescribes fines as punishment.

Presently, how to determine whether an offender is inflicted with severe punishment like an eye for an eye or be given a mild punishment as there is always a scope of reformation or rehabilitation? So this can be done with the help of theories of punishment.

Theory of Punishment in India

There are various theories of punishment in India applicable in the present era out which the reformative theory is followed in India:

  1. Retributive Theory

  • Retributive refers to punishment, repayment, or making restitution. Primitive societies mostly used punishment as retaliation. It was permitted for the victim of wrongdoing to exact retribution on the perpetrator. 

  • Criminal law was founded based on "an eye for an eye," "a tooth for a tooth," "a nail for a nail," and "a limb for a limb." "It is well known that the early forms of judicial procedure were founded on retaliation," said Justice Holmes.

  • This theory aims to help the offender understand their sorrow and grief. The proponents of this theory argue that the offender merits suffering. The political equivalent of personal vengeance is said to be the misery inflicted by the State acting in its official position. 

  1. Deterrent Theory

  • To deter is to “refrain from acting or doing.” Deterrent is “the imposition of harsh punishments to deter the offender from repeating the offense.” 

  • This theory contends that the goal of punishment is to make the perpetrator a deterrent to future wrongdoers and a role model for those with criminal tendencies. 

  • According to Salmond, criminal justice's deterrent components are crucial for crime control. In England throughout the Middle Ages, the punishment was based on the deterrence idea. Even for small infractions like pickpocketing and theft, severe and inhumane penalties were the standard practice.

  1. Preventive Theory

  • The term "theory of disablement" is another name for preventive theory. This theory contends that the goal of punishment is to deter crime rather than exact revenge. 

  • This idea seeks to render the offender helpless. Punishments such as death, banishment, or forfeiture of an office prevent repeat offenders. The offender is deterred from committing another crime by being locked up.

  • The proponents of this theory believe that jail is the best punishment since it works well as both a preventive measure and a deterrent. Bentham backed the preventative idea because it made the penal code more humane.

  1. Reformative Theory

  • The rehabilitation of offenders is the goal of punishment by reformative theory. This theory aims to transform the offender's mindset and rehabilitate him into a law-abiding member of society. 

  • An offender remains a human even if he commits a crime under certain conditions. He may not perpetrate the offense under the same conditions again. Crime is a mental illness brought on by several antisocial factors. 

  • Thus, treating criminals mentally rather than punishing them will accomplish the goal. Criminals who have received education and training will be capable of exhibiting proper social behavior. The main motive is to rehabilitate the offender. 

  1. Compensatory Theory

  • This theory holds that the goal of punishment must include compensating the crime's victims and preventing future criminal activity. 

  • It is founded on the idea that a victim should be made whole for the wrongdoings committed against him. The victim is entitled to compensation on two different grounds. 

  • First, the offender who caused harm to the person or property is responsible for making up for their wrongdoing. Second, the State is responsible for protecting its citizens; if it cannot do so, it must recompense the victims.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 82 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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