December 11, 2023
symbolizing the legal focus

The most important aspect of criminal law is punishment. Every civilization has a method for enforcing social control, which involves establishing regulations and mentioning the disincentives associated with them. The unpleasant deed that the wrongdoer conducts results in punishment. To put it plainly, the main theories of punishment are to uphold social order and provide relief to the victim.

Another way to describe punishment is the imposition of some kind of deprivation, such as denying someone their lawfully granted rights. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with a brief overview of the theories of punishment in jurisprudence that occasionally support the operation of the criminal justice system.

Theories of punishment under ipc: Objectives

  • To prevent possible offenders in order to shield society from naughty characters.
  • To stop real criminals from committing new crimes.
  • To drive out evils, reform offenders, and transform them into law-abiding citizens.
  • To administer justice in two ways: first, by rehabilitating criminals, and second, by causing pain to prevent future offenders and others from committing crimes.

What are 5 Theories of Punishment?

The major 5 theories of punishment are as follows:

The “deterrent theory of punishment”

  • The goal of this theory is to prevent criminals from committing the same crime or being involved in it again. Those in society who suffer the repercussions of such crime can learn from this theory. It instills an apprehension of punishment in those who share its beliefs.
  • Despite certain flaws, this theory has been shown to be effective. Deterrence’s main goal is to stop criminals and others from performing the same crime.
  • Criticisms:
  • Once the penalty is over, it no longer instills terror in the minds of offenders.
  • Hardened offenders are not frightened by this kind of punishment.
  • inspires popular pity for offenders.

The “retributive theory of punishment”

  • The well-known proverb “Tit for Tat,” “Eye for Eye,” or “Teeth for Teeth” serves as the foundation for this hypothesis. This theory’s primary goal is to equalize the suffering that the victim of the offender’s actions has to experience.
  • Simply put, since the goal of punishment is to bring peace and harmony back into society, it can be claimed that all forms of punishment are somewhat retributive. Compared to previous hypotheses, this one is more severe.
  • Criticisms:
  • The perpetrator becomes extremely irritated and frustrated as a result.
  • Regarding the offense the criminal committed, there is no relief.
  • The irrational nature of justice is reflected in this kind of punishment.
  • Retaliation is not usually the goal of punishment.

The “preventive theory of punishment”

  • This theory also favors deterring crime over exacting revenge.
  • The goal, according to this theory, is to keep the criminal out of society. According to this view, a criminal faces execution, life in prison, or other severe penalties.
  • In the process of sending criminals to prison, society attempts to keep them from committing additional crimes and shields itself from potential anti-social forces.
  • Criticisms:
  • It does not accomplish the goal set for young offenders and first-time offenders.

The “reformative theory of punishment”

  • The reformative theory of punishment in ipc name alone suggests something about its character. This theory aids in the rehabilitation of offenders, turning them into law-abiding citizens. No one is born a criminal; crimes can occur unintentionally or as a result of certain circumstances.
  • In this theory, the criminal needs to be given another opportunity to make amends. The facilities of training schools, reformatories, juvenile homes, and correctional houses are available for this. This theory’s primary goal is the rehabilitation of prisoners.
  • Criticisms:
  • If this approach is applied to offenders, the jail will start to resemble a residence instead of a place of incarceration.
  • The goal of this idea about repeat offenders is not achieved.
  • This approach could backfire if a decent citizen is penalized for something he hasn’t done.


  • This view holds that an offender has to be forgiven if he repents of his actions and acknowledges his error. In earlier times, this belief was widely accepted in India.
  • According to Manu Smriti, a criminal who is found guilty of a crime and given a prison sentence by a king becomes pure and ascends to heaven in the form of a good, virtuous man. It means that his offense has been made up for. In the present era, this notion is no longer widely accepted.
  • Criticisms:
  • Exaggeration of the crime’s motivation.
  • Overly utopian
  • Too unrealistic for today’s world.

The primary goal of theories of punishment IPC is to deter crime in society. To lower crime in society, it is necessary to identify and treat its underlying causes, some of which include unemployment, inadequate education, and other issues.

Regarding the various theories of punishment under IPC, the criminal justice system uses them as a basis for jurisprudence to determine appropriate sanctions based on the nature of the offense. For a better tomorrow, these beliefs have played a major role in supporting the judiciary and legislators in crafting and interpreting penalty laws, respectively.

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