The Ultimate Guide to Section 28 CrPC Sentences: Unveiling High Courts and Sessions Judges’ Powers

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in India is the principal legislation governing the procedural aspects of criminal law. Section 28 of the CrPC is particularly significant as it delineates the sentences which High Courts and Sessions Judges may pass. Understanding this section is crucial for comprehending the breadth and limitations of judicial powers in India.

section 28 crpc

This section empowers High Courts and Sessions Judges to impose sentences, thus playing a pivotal role in the criminal justice system.

Bare Act. Section 28 Cr.P.C.
Sentences which High Courts and Sessions Judges may pass.

(1) A High Court may pass any sentence authorised by law.
(2) A Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge may pass any sentence authorised by law; but any sentence of death passed by any such Judge shall be subject to confirmation by the High Court.
(3) An Assistant Sessions Judge may pass any sentence authorised by law except a sentence of death or of imprisonment for life or of imprisonment for a term exceeding ten years.

Authority of High Courts Under Section 28 CrPC

High Courts in India hold substantial authority when it comes to sentencing under Section 28 CrPC. They possess the power to impose any sentence authorized by law. This encompasses the death penalty, life imprisonment, and other forms of imprisonment, fines, and restitution. The authority of High Courts is not just expansive but also final, subject to the provisions for appeal and review.

Sentencing powers of High Courts have been exercised in numerous landmark cases. For instance, in cases involving heinous crimes like murder and terrorism, High Courts have handed down the death penalty, underscoring their significant role in maintaining law and order. However, this power comes with inherent limitations. High Courts must adhere to principles of natural justice, ensuring that sentences are not only legally sound but also just and equitable.

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Roles of Sessions Judges in Sentencing

Sessions Judges operate within the jurisdiction of their respective sessions courts, with authority granted under Section 28 CrPC to impose sentences for various criminal offenses. The scope of their powers includes passing any sentence authorized by law, except for the death penalty unless confirmed by the High Court. This distinction marks a clear line between the sentencing capacities of Sessions Judges and High Courts.

Sessions Judges handle a wide range of criminal cases, from minor offenses to serious crimes. Their role is pivotal as they often act as the first level of judiciary where substantive sentences are passed. The differences between High Courts and Sessions Judges primarily revolve around the scope and finality of their sentencing powers. While High Courts can impose death sentences and have appellate authority, Sessions Judges’ sentences, particularly for capital punishment, require confirmation from a higher judicial authority.

Scope of Sentences Under Section 28 CrPC

Section 28 CrPC provides a framework within which various types of sentences can be passed. These include:

  • Capital Punishment: Reserved for the most egregious offenses, subject to strict judicial scrutiny and confirmation by the High Court.
  • Life Imprisonment: For severe crimes, reflecting the gravity of the offense while allowing for the possibility of reform.
  • Imprisonment for Various Terms: Ranging from short-term to long-term incarceration, based on the nature of the crime and legislative guidelines.
  • Fines: Monetary penalties that may accompany or substitute imprisonment, aiming at punitive and deterrent effects.
  • Restitution: Compensatory payments to victims, emphasizing restorative justice.

The determination of these sentences involves careful consideration of factors such as the severity of the crime, the circumstances of the offender, previous criminal record, and the impact on victims. The duration of sentences is also subject to statutory limits and judicial discretion, ensuring a balanced approach to punishment.

Historical Context and Evolution

The evolution of Section 28 CrPC can be traced back to the colonial era when the British introduced the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Initially, the judicial system was designed to serve colonial interests, but over time, it underwent significant reforms to align with the democratic values of independent India.

Post-independence amendments have further refined the procedural aspects and sentencing guidelines under the CrPC. Recent developments have focused on enhancing the fairness and efficiency of the criminal justice system, ensuring that sentencing practices are just, transparent, and in line with contemporary legal standards.

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Comparative Analysis with Other Jurisdictions

Understanding Section 28 CrPC in a global context involves comparing it with sentencing practices in other common law jurisdictions like the UK and the USA. In the UK, sentencing guidelines are more prescriptive, providing detailed frameworks for judges to follow, thereby ensuring consistency and fairness. The USA, with its federal and state judicial systems, exhibits a diverse range of sentencing practices, often influenced by statutory mandates and sentencing guidelines.

Such comparative analysis highlights the strengths and areas for improvement in India’s sentencing practices under Section 28 CrPC. While India maintains a balance between judicial discretion and legislative directives, learning from other jurisdictions can provide valuable insights into enhancing consistency and fairness in sentencing.

Landmark Judgments Interpreting Section 28 CrPC

Several landmark judgments have interpreted Section 28 CrPC, shaping its application and scope. For example, the Supreme Court’s decision in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab affirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty but laid down stringent guidelines for its imposition, emphasizing the “rarest of rare” doctrine. Similarly, in Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, the apex court highlighted procedural safeguards and the need for a humane approach in sentencing.

These judgments underscore the judiciary’s role in interpreting Section 28 CrPC to ensure that sentencing practices uphold constitutional values and human rights principles. They also serve as precedents guiding lower courts in the application of this section.

Procedure for Passing Sentences

The procedure for passing sentences under Section 28 CrPC involves several steps:

  1. Trial Process: The trial process includes the examination of evidence, cross-examinations, and arguments by the prosecution and defense.
  2. Sentencing Hearing: Upon conviction, a separate sentencing hearing is held where both parties present arguments regarding the appropriate sentence.
  3. Announcement of Sentence: The judge announces the sentence, providing detailed reasons to justify the decision, ensuring it is based on legal principles and the specifics of the case.

This structured approach ensures transparency and fairness, allowing for a thorough consideration of all relevant factors before a sentence is imposed.

Impact on Criminal Justice System

Section 28 CrPC plays a crucial role in the Indian criminal justice system by providing a legal framework for sentencing. Its impact is multifaceted:

  • Deterrence: By prescribing severe penalties for serious offenses, it aims to deter potential offenders.
  • Rehabilitation: Sentences are also designed to rehabilitate offenders, offering opportunities for reform and reintegration into society.
  • Public Perception: The manner in which sentences are imposed affects public confidence in the justice system, emphasizing the need for fairness and consistency.
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Challenges and Criticisms

Despite its importance, Section 28 CrPC faces several challenges and criticisms. Issues of judicial overreach, inconsistencies in sentencing, and delays in the judicial process are significant concerns. Furthermore, there is ongoing debate about the appropriateness of certain sentences, such as the death penalty, in a modern legal system.

Suggestions for reform include the implementation of more detailed sentencing guidelines, enhancing judicial training, and adopting restorative justice practices to complement traditional punitive measures.

Future of Sentencing Under Section 28 CrPC

The future of sentencing under Section 28 CrPC is likely to be influenced by several factors, including legal reforms, technological advancements, and evolving societal values. Predicted changes may involve greater use of technology in the judicial process, more detailed and standardized sentencing guidelines, and an increased emphasis on restorative justice.

These developments aim to ensure that sentencing practices remain just, effective, and aligned with contemporary legal standards and human rights principles.


Section 28 CrPC is a cornerstone of the Indian criminal justice system, outlining the sentencing powers of High Courts and Sessions Judges. Its proper application ensures that justice is served in a fair and balanced manner, reflecting the gravity of offenses while providing opportunities for rehabilitation. As the legal landscape evolves, ongoing reforms and adaptations will continue to shape the future of sentencing under this critical provision, striving for a system that upholds justice, fairness, and human dignity.

Frequently Asked Questions

High Courts can impose any sentence authorized by law, including the death penalty, life imprisonment, and fines, subject to statutory and constitutional limits.

Sessions Judges can impose any sentence authorized by law except the death penalty, which requires confirmation by the High Court.

Factors include the severity of the crime, the offender’s circumstances, previous criminal record, and the impact on victims.

Landmark judgments include Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab and Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, which have shaped the application and scope of this section.

Challenges include judicial overreach, inconsistencies in sentencing, and delays in the judicial process, highlighting the need for ongoing reforms.