December 9, 2023
symbolizing justice and order

For every citizen to be able to utilize their human rights, independent states have to protect the rule of law, encourage adherence to it, and keep the peace. States can carry out this duty by passing the necessary laws, executive orders, and judicial decrees. However, such procedures would be worthless without adequate punitive and preventive measures to either correct or restrict the persons’ improper conduct.

Sentencing Policy Meaning

According to the sentencing policy meaning, the sentencing standards are a reflection of how society perceives and rationalizes a particular crime. One way to think of sentencing guidelines is as a way to figure out how much punishment is right for a given crime.

Sentencing policy in India ipc isdescribed in Section 53, lists the many kinds of penalties that a court of law may impose on an offender. These are:

  • Demise
  • Life imprisonment, 
  • Severe incarceration, or simple imprisonment
  • Property forfeiture 
  • Penalties

However, the IPC merely stipulates the minimum and maximum penalties for each offense; it does not specify a sufficient sentence.

Sentencing Policy in India: Why there is a need for Uniformity?

According to the sentencing policy in India, there are various offenses under the Indian Penal Code of 1860 that only specify the maximum punishment, while there are other offenses that only specify the minimum punishment. This provides judges more leeway when deciding how to punish a wrongdoer. There is no such consistency now because each judge applies their own thought to the sentencing process.

Therefore, there must be a uniform sentencing policy to:

  • Strengthen the deterrent power of punishment by defining definite and foreseeable repercussions for wrongdoing. If potential offenders are aware of the anticipated consequences of their acts, they are more likely to be discouraged.
  • Increases the legal system’s transparency. A consistent sentencing strategy guarantees that the general public can comprehend and anticipate the repercussions of illegal activity, which enhances the transparency of the legal system.
  • Expedite the legal process by using sentencing guidelines. This may result in less strain on the criminal justice system and more effective court processes.
  • Eliminate the possibility of prejudice at sentencing. Judges run the risk of applying punishments inconsistently based on socioeconomic position, gender, or ethnicity if there are no rules. A unified policy reduces these differences.

Sentencing Policy and Process: Surrounding Defects

In the sentencing policy and process, many lawmakers have identified various defects surrounding it. They are as follows:

  • The death penalty is the harshest penalty that can be given, followed by life in prison. There is no punishment in between, similar to what is known as “imprisonment without remission or commutation”.
  • Given that the worth of money has gone up fifty times since 1860, the fines included in the Criminal Code have to be amended.
  • Whether or not the accused is found guilty, the prosecution must establish their case beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the accused to be found not guilty.
  • Sanctions imposed by trial courts in a way that seems arbitrary and unfair without providing sufficient justification. The role of various officials in the system of criminal justice has occasionally been condemned by the higher judiciary.

judicial discretion and Sentencing policy in India: Non-Uniformity in Delivering Sentence

  • In the Shakti Mills rape case, where a girl was raped by five males, two of them were adolescents. In this case, the court took a harsher stance and applied the death penalty by using the recently enacted Section 376 E of the IPC and citing the fact that the accused had previously been found guilty of raping a girl and had been given a life sentence for that crime. Despite the fact that they were not found guilty when the crime was committed.
  • In Priyadarshini Mattoo’s case, where a Delhi University student’s senior viciously sexually assaulted and killed her at her house. The accused in this instance is the son of a well-known police officer who escaped punishment, even though the trial court had extensive knowledge in the relevant information. This particular instance serves as an excellent illustration of the uncertainty present in court rulings.
  • In the Unnao rape case, which contained an ex-BJP MLA’s name. The court found him guilty of plotting to assassinate the girl’s father in addition to raping a little girl. The court merely gave him a life sentence back then.

The Supreme Court upheld the fact that the superior court frequently encounters a number of cases that show irregularities in the sentencing guidelines. Additionally, it is said that superior courts reverse 90% of trial court rulings. And the lack of a unified strategy for sentencing is the cause of this.

Way Forward

Justice for the people is the most important thing in any legal system. In this area, it is necessary to consider the preservation of rights through just trials and appropriate sentencing that can balance the rights of the accused and the victim. When someone is sentenced to death for any offense, it serves as a deterrence to other people committing horrible crimes. Consequently, the deterrent effect of punishment is achieved.  

In situations where there is a cruel and inhumane attitude toward mankind, the death penalty must be applied; otherwise, society’s cries for justice against offenders will go unheard.  Sentencing discretion is therefore an inevitable evil that can only be controlled, organized, and disciplined.

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