When India Whipped its Convicts!

October 29, 2013

The severest punishment a man can receive … is (to be) subject to the whip of his own repentance.- Seneca - Roman philosopher, statesman and dramatist (BC4-AD65).

On October 22, 2013, according to AFP report, the Sultan of Brunei introduced tough Sharia-law, including death by stoning for crimes such as adultery. Based on individual cases, punishment could also include severing of limbs for theft and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to alcohol consumption.

Crime and punishment have been subjects of interest from ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and also in Biblical times as reflected in the following references.

Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. –  Deuteronomy XIX 21 (Old Testament). (Alluding to this Gandhiji had said: An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.) Elsewhere in the Bible, it is said: “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea.” – Luke XVII -2 (New Testament) - indicating the prevalence of such punishment then.

Crucifiction was one of the punishments, as in the case of Jesus. People were fed to lions. They were also tied to horses which raced in the arena till accused died of bruises – as seen in the film Ben-Hur. They were also put to death by burning, as St. Lawrence, who is courted by devotees for favours at his Karkala (Attur) shrine, bound with chains, on a gridiron, over live coals. Shooting point blank has been an option in some modern dictatorships.

Michael Fernandez

If you think it is all ancient and barbaric, discerning readers would have learnt about cutting limbs and whipping in some Middle East countries. Whipping also goes by other names like caning, flogging and scourging – as Jesus was infamously scourged in the court of Pilate before he was condemned to death on the cross.

When we in India think that even whipping is a barbaric punishment, it is interesting to recall that whipping was common punishment in India in the early decades of the last century. How do I know? I came upon an interesting book on law written by the first Mangalorean Catholic District and Sessions Judge working for the Madras Presidency (Province). So, before coming to whipping proper, let us have a bit of background on the concerned judge

Joseph Custodius Fernandez (1864-1929) was the first Mangalorean to obtain BA, BL and ML way back in 1911. He wrote a law Manual titled Guidance for Special Magistrates to which I am given access by his grandson, Michael Fernandez, a retired State Bank manager, a hard-core conservationist, living at Attavar in his ancestral cottage. Joseph had his education  in Rosario church School, St. Aloysius school and Madras Law College.

In his Preface dated December 1921, Joseph refers to Justices of Peace in England and apparently there were similar Special Magistrates in the Madras Presidency outside the cadre of regular judicial officers. In the Preface, Joseph says: “The Manual has been compiled under the instruction of the Government of Madras for the guidance of Special Magistrates in the Presidency of Madras in the discharge of their functions as such. These functions are not co-extensive with those of stipendiary Magistrates, and being circumscribed in their scope by virtue of their appointment as a subsidiary magisterial agency for the exercise of only some of the powers vested in their confreres, the Manual deals with only those aspects of Criminal Law and Procedure with which Special Magistrates are concerned, and embodies the general principles of Indian Evidence Act with some necessary elaboration of details.

Bearing in mind the fact that most Special Magistrates are appointed from among persons without legal training and forensic experience, the object aimed at has been to present these matters in as simple a manner as possible so as to be  easily understood and applied.”

Chapter XIII of the manual, starting on page171, has the following Sections of Criminal Procedure Code in respect of “Whipping” as noted in Joseph’s Manual.

Section 390 – When the accused is sentenced to whipping only, the sentence shall be executed at such place and time as the court may direct.

Section 391 – (1)When the accused is sentenced to whipping in addition to imprisonment in a case which is subject to appeal, the whipping shall not be until fifteen days  from the date of the sentence, or if an appeal is made within that time, until the sentence was confirmed by the appellate  Court; but the whipping shall be inflicted as soon as practicable after the expiry of fifteen days, or, in the case of appeal, as soon as practicable after the receipt of the order of the appellate court confirming the sentence. (Going beyond the Joseph Manual, readers will note the short time-frame mentioned in contrast to today’s no-time frame situation)

(2) The whipping shall be inflicted in the presence of the officer in charge of the jail, unless the judge or magistrate orders it to be inflicted in his presence.

(3) No accused person shall be sentenced to whipping In addition to imprisonment when the term of imprisonment to which he is sentenced is less than three months.

Section 192 – (1) In the case of a person of or over sixteen years of age, whipping shall be inflicted with a light rattan not less than half an inch in diameter, in such a mode, and on such part of the person, as the Local Government directs and, in the case of person under sixteen years of age,  it shall be inflicted in such mode and on such part of the person, and with such instrument, as the Local Government directs.

(2) In no case such whipping  exceed 30 stripes and in the case of a person under sixteen years of age, it shall not exceed fifteen stripes.

Section 194 – (1) The punishment of whipping shall not be inflicted unless a medical officer, if present, certifies, or, if there is not a medical officer present, unless it appears to the Magistrate or officer present, that the offender is in a fit state of health to undergo such punishment.

(2)If, during the execution of the sentence of whipping, a medical officer certifies, or it appears to the Magistrate or officer present, that the offender is not in a fit state of health to undergo the remainder of the sentence, the whipping shall be finally stopped.

I leave it to the readers to speculate or determine whether these provisions are still on the statute book or deleted or are not enforced.
They must have been there till early 1950s because I was whipped then following a spat between me and a labourer’s son on my way to the high school. It went to the Panchayat Court and it was decided that both boys should be inflicted six whippings. Generally it is executed by the village Patel. But, in this case, considering my father’s high status, the fathers were given the task of whipping. The boy’s father was given the first choice and the boy wore only an underwear (Komana in Tulu). He took  the full brunt of the whipping, perhaps because poor people are used to whipping their children. The whip (a slender cane) was thoroughly split by the time it came into my father’s hand and it went over my short pant and shirt. After one stroke, as my father attempted the second, the stump of the whip slipped from his hand. The rich Bhramin Patel was secretly happy at the turn of events and could not find a second cane in his Panchayat office-cum-residence.

John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral challenger). His latest book, Corruption – India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal, published in USA and priced at $ 21.5. is available online from Amazon.com and other leading online book-sellers.



By John B Monteiro
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to news@daijiworld.com mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • Nin, Mangalore

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    We might consider the past punishments barbaric .. but, they left a lasting impression on the criminals and deterred them from committing crimes again. The punishments meted out presently, eg. prison sentence for certain number of days to years has become a walk in the park for criminals who tend to walk the path of crime again and again, as they are sure of their return into the society unharmed from their vacations behind the bars. If some of the past punishments are re-introduced, I am sure we will be seeing less of repeat offenders in our midst.

  • Sampath , Mlore/ Blore

    Tue, Oct 29 2013

    In old documentary films resembling the British era we see that such punishment was prevailing and may be that was the reason that people had fear of law and there was a proper order in the society.... Now in present era we donot find such punishments so we feel there is a increase in the crime rates in the society.

    Fact is where such physical punishment in todays world the crime is at a lower rate

  • JOHN R LOBO, Kaikamba/Dubai

    Tue, Oct 29 2013

    have read the article about rape case in post independent India.
    Hon.Judge ( I forgot his name ) ordered to cane to thighs ( total 10 ) PLUS Rs.One Lac compensation PLUS 7 years Imprisonment to Convict.( Businessman )

    Later the same Judge attended one public function and explain to public about his Judgement that – When ever the convict looking at his thighs he has realise to his grave sin....

    Secondly, Caning is still in use in developed country Singapore, bcoz Singapore Govt Penal Code is copy of IPC. .Best eg.an American teenage boy caned in Singapore for spraying paint in some bodies car. Sentence was carried out inspite of pardon request from President Bill Clinton....

Leave a Comment

Title: When India Whipped its Convicts!

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. Daijiworld.com will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will Daijiworld.com be held responsible.