Punishment is a phrase that is used in the criminal justice system. Certain acts are regarded as ‘crimes’ solely because of the phrase punishment. We can see from the society’s history that taming the public’s barbarous and primitive instincts would have been difficult without sanctions. The rulers utilised the weapon known as ‘punishment’ against their subjects in order to instil dread in the public’s minds about their rulers’ capabilities and powers.

There are different theories of punishments too:

The theories of punishment are:


The Retributive Theory of Punishment, or ‘Theory of Vengeance,’ as many people in society call it, is the most basic, yet inhumane, theory of imposing a criminal punishment on a wrongdoer. It is founded on a roman theory known as Lex talionis, which roughly translates to “an eye for an eye.” When considering highly terrible and heinous crimes, such as in  the Delhi gang rape case, some may believe that it is preferable to impose such retributive punishments in order to ensure that a deterrent is established across society, preventing such crimes in the near future.

Anwar Ahmad vs. Uttar Pradesh State and Others — before being officially convicted by the Court, the convicted had already served a six-month sentence in prison. The Court decided that since the defendant had already been convicted and had received the required ‘blemish,’ it was unnecessary to sentence him again in the name of ‘retributive punishment,’ since it would cause a significant loss to the family.

The term “DETER” in the Deterrent Theory of Punishment refers to the act of refraining from doing something wrong. This theory’s major goal is to “deter” (prevent) criminals from attempting or repeating the same act in the future. As a result, it claims that the goal is to deter crime by instilling terror; to create or make an example for individuals or the entire society by punishing the guilty. That is to say, according to this theory, if someone commits a crime and receives a severe punishment, the people in the society may become aware of the severe punishments for certain types of crimes, and as a result of this fear in the minds of the people in the society, the people may refrain from committing any type of crime or wrongful act.

The Preventive Theory of Punishment aims to disable criminals in order to avoid future crimes. The primary goal of preventative theory is to permanently or temporarily reform criminals. According to this view, criminals are sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

In Compensatory Theory it has been stated, the primary goal of criminal law is to punish the criminal and/or to seek his reform and rehabilitation using all available resources and goodwill from the courts and other governmental and non-governmental organisations. It must be seen that criminals receive adequate punishment for the crimes they have committed, as well as the annoyance they have caused to the victim, their family members, and their property.

In the landmark decision of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court held that a victim who is under the custody of the state has every right to compensation because the officer of the state has violated her Right to Life, which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.


We learned about the guiding principles that underpin the theories of punishment, and some crucial case law on the subject. However, we must recognize that punishment is something that should be administered with caution. We must recognize that putting a punishment on someone severely changes his mental, physical, and social standing, as the famous phrase says,

“Let go of a hundred guilty, rather than punish an innocent.”

It has a significant negative impact on him and his well-being. As a result, extreme caution must be exercised when administering criminal justice, or the fundamental principles of justice will be jeopardized.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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