What are the maximum and minimum terms of imprisonment laid down under the Indian Penal Code?
It is clear from the above that a sentence inflicting solitary confinement for the whole term of imprisonment is illegal. It must bear only a portion of the term of imprisonment.
Section 74 of the Code further limits the scope of solitary confinement by providing that in executing a sentence of solitary confinement, such confinement shall in no case exceed fourteen days at a time, with intervals between the periods of solitary confinement of not less duration than such periods, and when the imprisonment awarded shall exceed three months, the solitary confinement shall not exceed seven days in any one month of the whole imprisonment awarded, with intervals between the periods of solitary confinement of not less duration than such periods.
Solitary confinement as a rule is not ordered unless there are special features appearing in the commission of the offence.
Maximum and minimum terms of imprisonment:
The maximum term of imprisonment that can be awarded for an offence is 14 years (S. 35), and the minimum term is 24 hours (S. 10). It is discretionary with the court to determine the term of imprisonment within the bounds lay down by the Indian Penal Code.
The punishment varies with the evil consequences of a criminal act, motive and character of the offender. Circumstances which aggravate an offence, such as the manner in which an offence is committed, and the number of previous convictions to the credit of the offender necessitate the infliction of a longer term of imprisonment, while circumstances such as the minority or old age of the offender, provocation, absence of bad intention, self-protection, etc., call forth for a lenient view.
In two cases, however, the Indian Penal Code has prescribed a minimum term of imprisonment of seven years (viz., Sections 397 and 398) where the offence of robbery or dacoity is attended with certain aggravating circumstances, viz., and use. of a deadly weapon, or causing of grievous hurt or attempting to cause death or grievous hurt or where in an attempt to commit robbery or dacoity the offender is armed with any deadly weapon.
The relevant provisions in regard to imprisonment in default of payment of fine are embodied in Sections 65 to 70 of the Indian Penal Code.
Character of the sentence of imprisonment:
The imprisonment which the court imposes in default of payment of a fine may be of any description to which the offender might have been sentenced for the offence.
Thus, if the offence is punishable with rigorous imprisonment, it follows the additional term of imprisonment, in default of payment of fine must be rigorous. (S. 66). However, if the offence is punishable with fine only, the imprisonment in default of payment of fine shall be simple.
Duration of the sentence of imprisonment:
Section 65 lies down that the term of imprisonment in default of payment of fine should not exceed one-fourth of the maximum term of imprisonment fixed for the offence, if the offence be punishable with imprisonment as well as fine.
If the offence be punishable with fine only the term for which the court directs the offender to be imprisoned in default of payment of fine shall not exceed the following scale:
Amount of fine Term of imprisonment in default-of payment of fine.
Not exceeding Rs. 50 Not exceeding 2 months;
Not exceeding Rs. 100 Not exceeding 4 months;
In any other case not exceeding 6 months; (S. 67).
The imprisonment which is imposed in default of payment of a fine shall terminate whenever that fine is either paid or levied, i.e., realized by process of law. (S. 63).
If, however, before the expiration of the term of imprisonment, a proportion of the fine has been paid by the offender or obtained by such levy, a proportional abatement of the imprisonment shall follow. (S. 69).
This if A, is sentenced to a fine of Rs. 130 or to four months’ imprisonment in lieu of fine. A will be released on the expiry of the first month if Rs. 75 of the fine be paid or levied before the expiration of one month of the imprisonment and will be released at the end of two months if Rs. 50 of the fine be paid or levied before the expiration of two months of imprisonment.
It may be observed that imprisonment in default of payment of fine does not exonerate the offender from his liability to pay the full amount of fine imposed on him, which can be realized from the movable as well as immovable property of the convict. Nor does the death of the offender discharge from the liability any property which would, after his death, be legally liable for his debts.
There is, however, the bar of six years within which after the passing of the sentence the fine must be realized. If, however, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a longer period than six years, then at any time previous to the expiration of that period, the fine, or any part thereof which remains unpaid, may be levied, i.e., realized. (S. 70).