What are the Sentencing Powers of Various Criminal Courts in India?

The various sentences which the different Courts are empowered to pass under the Criminal Procedure Code may be summarised as follows:

Name of CourtSentences which it may pass
1. High Court

2. Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge

3. Assistant Sessions Judge

4. Chief Judicial Magistrate or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate

5. First Class Magistrate or Metropolitan Magistrate

6. Second Class Magistrate

1. Any sentence authorised by law.

2. Any sentence authorised by law. However, a sentence of death is subject to confirmation by the High Court.

3. Any sentence authorised by law, except—

(a) A sentence of death, or

(b) Imprisonment for life, or

(c) Imprisonment for a term exceeding ten years.

4. Any sentence authorised by law, except—

(a) sentence of death, or

(b) Imprisonment for life or

(c) Imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years.

5. Any sentence of imprisonment, not exceeding three years, or of fine not exceeding Rs. 10,000, or both.

6. Any sentence of imprisonment, not exceeding one year, or of fine not exceeding Rs. 5,000, or both.

The Calcutta High Court has held that if a case is registered in a Magistrate’s Court, and the person is charged with some offences triable exclusively by a Magistrate and other offences triable exclusively by a Sessions Court, the case cannot be split up, and the entire case should be committed to the Sessions Court. (The State v. Shyamal, 1983 Cr. L.J. 40)

Power to Award Imprisonment in Default of fine by the Court:

Now, where a fine is imposed on an accused, and it is not paid, he can be given a further term of imprisonment in addition to the one already awarded. S. 30 defines the limits of a Magistrate’s power to award such imprisonment, and lays down that such imprisonment

(a) Cannot be in excess of the Magistrate’s power (as per the above Table); and

(b) Cannot exceed one-fourth of the term which the Magistrate is competent to inflict as punishment for the offence, otherwise than as imprisonment in default of payment of the fine.

Under the Indian Penal Code, if the offence is punishable with the fine only, then for fines of Rs. 50 and under, the default sentence will be upto 2 months; for fines from Rs. 51 to Rs. 100, the default sentence will be upto 4 months; and in other cases, it will be 6 months. To this limitation, the present Code has added one more, viz., that the imprisonment can only extend to one-fourth of the term which the Magistrate is competent to sentence.

Thus, suppose A is convicted of an offence which is punishable under the I.P.C. with imprisonment of either description for 4 years, or fine, or both, and he is sentenced by a First Class Magistrate to undergo imprisonment for a period of three years, and also to pay a fine of Rs. 200. In default of payment of the fine, A can be sentenced to imprisonment for an additional period of 9 months.

Under S. 65 of the I.P.C., in default of payment of the fine, A may be sentenced to a period not exceeding 1 year, i.e., one-fourth of 4 years, the maximum imprisonment provided for the offence. But under the Criminal Procedure Code, the maximum period for which A may be imprisoned for non-payment of fine, cannot, in the present case, exceed 9 months, i.e., one-fourth of 3 years, which is the maximum imprisonment that can be awarded by a First Class Magistrate under the Criminal Procedure Code.