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Report No. 42

3.41. Simple imprisonment.-

While section 53 indicates that imprisonment for a specified term may be either rigorous or simple and that the former involves hard labour, nothing is said about the nature of simple imprisonment. This is left to be regulated by the Prisons Act, 1894. Section 36 of this Act requires that "provision shall be made by the Superintendent for the employment (as long as they so desire) of all criminal prisoners sentenced to simple imprisonment; but no prisoner not sentenced to rigorous imprisonment shall be punished for neglect of work except by such alteration in the scale of diet as may be established by the rules of the prisoner in the case of neglect of work by such a prisoner". Under section 59, the State Government makes rules for classifying and prescribing the forms of labour and regulating the period of rest from labour, and presumably, the voluntary labour to which a prisoner sentenced to simple imprisonment may submit "as long as he so desires", is regulated in accordance with those rules.

3.42. Compulsory light labour necessary.-

It has been suggested from time to time that simple imprisonment should be abolished. The Madras Jail Reforms Committee reporting in 1951 pointed out that this class of prisoners cannot be compelled to work, idleness does no good to the prisoners themselves and it is also not conducive to jail discipline. An All-India seminar on Correctional Services held in 1969 in Delhi recommended that, as it was desirable to develop the work habit in a prisoner, simple imprisonment as a form of punishment should be abolished.

A life of complete idleness even for a short period would hardly be welcomed by a normal individual. The ideology of compelling prisoners to work in prison has undergone a radical change since the last century. Hard labour was extracted from prisoner's mainly with the object of making them feel the punishment imposed on them by the courts. This idea gave place to some extent to making prison labour productive by introducing less harsh and more sophisticated forms of work. Later still, deliberate emphasis was laid on training the prisoner to a craft by disciplined labour. Work in prison is no longer designed principally as an instrument of punishment of the offender or as a direct source of profit to the State but as a method of reforming the prisoner and rehabilitating him on release.

Even where the offence does not carry with it a moral stigma and, either on that ground or some other, the offender is sentenced to simple imprisonment, there need not be any serious objection to his being required to do some work in prison as part of the punishment imposed on him. No doubt there may be special cases where, while the sentence of imprisonment is justifiable, the prisoner's antecedents, character and mental equipment and the nature of the offence committed by him are such that imprisonment coupled with hard labour would be too severe a punishment. We feel that in such cases, some form of light labour should be a part of the punishment of imprisonment to which the offender is sentenced.

3.43. Two kinds of imprisonment to remain.-

We also considered a suggestion that the present distinction between simple and rigorous imprisonment should be done away with and all offenders deserving a jail sentence should be simply sentenced to imprisonment for a specified term, leaving it to the jail authorities and the prisons rules to regulate the kind of work to be taken from particular classes of prisoners. The penal systems of most countries provide for two or three different modes of keeping offenders under restraint and require the courts to decide which of them should be awarded in the particular circumstances of a case. Under the Indian Penal Code; the great majority of offences are punishable with "imprisonment of either description" and only a few with simple imprisonment. We think that the legislative policy underlying this classification is sound and should be maintained.

3.44. Amendment recommended.-

We accordingly recommend that it should be made clear in section 53 of the Code that simple imprisonment means imprisonment with light labour. Section 36 of the Prisoners Act, 1894, should be suitably amended so that convicted persons sentenced to simple imprisonment could be compelled to perform light tasks regularly throughout the period of their incarceration, and not only "as long as they so desire."

3.45. Section 53 revised.-

In the light of the foregoing discussion we propose that section 53 may be revised as follows.-

"53. Punishments.-The punishments which offenders are liable under the provisions of this Code are

(i) death;

(ii) imprisonment for life;

(iii) imprisonment for a term, which may b.-

(a) rigorous, that is, with hard labour, or

(b) simple, that is, with light labour;

(iv) forfeiture of property;

(v) fine."

3.46. Section 53A.-

Section 53A was inserted in the Penal Code by Act 26 of 1955 which formally abolished the sentence of transportation, whether for life or for a specific term. The new section laid down rules of construction for the expressions "transportation for life" and "transportation for a term" wherever these occurred in laws other than the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and in statutory instruments and Orders in force on 31-12-155. The section does not require any change.

3.47. Sections 54, 55 and 55.-omitted.-

In our last Report1 on the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, we pointed out that the provisions contained in sections 54, 55 and 55A of the Penal Code relating to commutation of death sentences and sentences of imprisonment for life are repeated in section 402 of the Criminal Procedure Code but with some slight differences, and recommended that this duplication should be removed and the law stated at one place in the Criminal Procedure Code.2 Sections 54, 55 and 55A and may accordingly be omitted.

1. 41st Report, Vol. 1, paras. 29.10 and 29.11.

2. This has been done in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Bill, 1970, vide clauses 442 and 443.

3.48. New sections 54 and 55.-

As indicated above in paragraphs 3.34 and 3.35, the following new sections may be inserted at this place.-

"54. Minors not to be sentenced to death.- The sentence of death shall not be passed on a person convicted of a capital offence, if at the time of committing the offence, he was under eighteen years of age and death is not the only punishment provided by law for the offence.

55. Imprisonment for life to be rigorous.- Imprisonment for life shall be rigorous."

3.49. Section 57.-

Section 57 provides a rule for calculating fractions of the punishment of life imprisonment whenever necessary under the Code, e.g., with reference to the punishment for abetment or attempt. Since we are expressly making life imprisonment rigorous, its term equivalent should be rigorous imprisonment for twenty years. The word "rigorous" should be inserted after the words "equivalent to" in section 57.

3.50. Section 60.-

Though section 60 which enables a court to direct imprisonment in certain cases to be partly rigorous and partly simple is seldom availed of in practice, we see no harm in retaining it in the statute book.

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