Punishment is a universal concept for the prevention of crime. Crime is an act which is harmful for the society and punishable by law. Law means a body of principles which is adopted and applied by the State for the administration of justice. The kind of punishment can be discussed under two categories-

  • Kinds of punishment under the Ancient law
  • Kinds of punishment under the Indian Penal Code, 1860

The kinds of punishment under the Ancient law are- Branding, Whipping or Flogging, Chaining, Mutilation and Poetic punishment (Head out, Bull, Stoning)

The kinds of punishment under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 53) are- Death sentence, Imprisonment for life, Imprisonment- Rigorous and Simple, Forfeiture of Property and Fine.


Death sentence is also known as Capital punishment. In India, death sentence is awarded only in the rarest of the rare cases. Death sentence is the highest form of punishment. Some of the offences for which death sentence maybe awarded in India are-

  • Section 121- Waging or attempting or abetting to wage war against the Government of India
  • Section 302- Punishment for Murder
  • Section 305- Punishment for abetment to commit suicide by a child or insane person
  • Section 396- Punishment for Dacoity with Murder


Some of the rarest of the rare cases are-

  • In Mahendra Nath Das v. State of Assam, Harkant Das (deceased) was taking tea at a stall. The appellant arrived at the scene with a sword like weapon and with it dealt blows to Harkant Das who fell down on the ground. The appellant amputated the right hand and thereafter severed the head of Harkant Das (deceased). With the head of the deceased in one hand and blood dripping weapon in the other hand, he moved towards the police outpost. He was convicted for offence under Section 302, Indian Penal Code by the trial court and was awarded death sentence. It was held by the Supreme Court that the murder committed was extremely gruesome, heinous, cold blooded and cruel. The manner in which murder was committed was atrocious and shocking. There was no doubt that this case fell into the category of rarest of rare cases.
  • In Sudam alias Rahul Koniram Jodhav v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1999, accused was alleged to have killed his wife and four children. He was seen alive with his family on day prior to incident. Accused had confessed to his ex-wife and one another that he had killed his wife and children because of harassment meted out by deceased wife. Accused absconded after committing murder. Deceased wife and 4 children were brought near pound, strangulated and thrown in pond after tying bodies in bundles to conceal crime. It was held that accused had motive to commit offence as he absconded after incident. He also failed to explain as to how his wife and children died homicidal death. Therefore circumstances, unerringly point to guilt of accused and no other. Murder was committed in planned and brutal and barbaric manner. Accused is a menace to society, the case falls in the rarest of the rare category and hence he is liable to be inflicted death sentence.


Death sentence is a process which provides lawful infliction of punishment to an individual if he/she commits an act which is forbidden by law. In India, death sentence is rare, because even the convicts are given a chance to reform!

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