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Not Open To Trial Courts Awarding Life Imprisonment To Further Specify Term Of Incarceration As Remainder Of Natural Life, Or Rule Out Remission [Read Order]

Mehal Jain
20 Aug 2020 11:33 AM GMT
Not Open To Trial Courts Awarding Life Imprisonment To Further Specify Term Of Incarceration As Remainder Of Natural Life, Or Rule Out Remission [Read Order]
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The Punjab and Haryana Court has reaffirmed that Trial courts have no power to order a life sentence to run till natural life or that no remission will be granted.

The judgment delivered by a bench headed by Justice S. Muralidhar iterated that this power is solely with the HC and SC only in view of the constitution bench of the Apex Court in the V. Sriharan case.

The bench, also comprising Justice Avneesh Jhingan, required copies of this judgment and the V. Sriharan judgment to be sent to all judges through the judicial academy and to all jail authorities of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

The division bench also set aside the order rejecting grant of parole to the petitioner on these grounds and others and remanded the matter back from afresh decision in accordance with law. The petitioner was a disciple of Baba Rampal and was convicted in the same case as him.

The division bench concluded that after the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in V. Sriharan, it is not open to a court inferior to the High Court and Supreme Court, while awarding a sentence of life imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code to further provide for any specific term of incarceration, or till the end of a convict's life, or to direct that there shall be no remission, as an alternate to the death penalty. That power is available only with the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Consequently, the trial Court, in the instant case, while awarding the Petitioner the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for life could not have added the riders that it should be for the rest of her natural life or that she would not be entitled to any remission.

The petitioner was challenging the order dated 5th June of the Divisional Commissioner, Hisar, rejecting the Petitioner's application for temporary release/parole, on the grounds that the trial Court i.e. the Court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Hisar, has by an order dated 16th October 2018 awarded her a sentence of imprisonment for life i.e. whole of her natural life, without any remission, consequent to her conviction for the offences under Sections 302, 343 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code.

The bench made a reference to Section 3 (1) (d) of the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 1988 read with Rules 4 and 8 (iii) of the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release), Rules, 2007 to infer that the earning of the first annual god conduct remission (AGCR), apart from completing one year of imprisonment post conviction, is a must.

"It is also correct that the sentence awarded to the Petitioner by the trial Court in the instant case is one of 'rigorous imprisonment for life, without any remission'. She has been, along with her co-convicts, 'sentenced to imprisonment for life of their natural death (sic)' meaning thereby that she should remain in prison for the rest of her natural life. The Divisional Commissioner who passed the impugned order rejecting the Petitioner's request for parole was, therefore, constrained to apply Rule 4 in light of the sentence awarded by the trial Court", noted the bench.

The bench also observed that the question whether the trial Court could have passed such a sentence would undoubtedly be one of the questions that would arise for consideration in the Petitioner's criminal appeal against her conviction and sentence which is pending before this Court. However, the bench was alive to the fact that it is unlikely that the said appeal, which would have to be heard with the connected appeals of her co-convicts, can be taken up for hearing in the near future. Further, this would mean that till such question is decided, the authorities would be precluded from considering any of her applications for release on parole.

"It would be unreasonable, in the circumstances, for the examination of this question to be postponed to the hearing of the appeal, particularly since, as will be seen hereafter, the legal position in this regard is clear", said the bench, noting that the legal position with regard to the power of the trial Courts to award sentences with riders has been made explicit in the Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in V. Sriharan The bench concluded that after the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in V. Sriharan, it is not open to a court inferior to the High Court and Supreme Court, while awarding a sentence of life imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code to further provide for any specific term of incarceration, or till the end of a convict's life, or to direct that there shall be no remission, as an alternate to the death penalty. That power is available only with the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

"Consequently, the trial Court, in the instant case, while awarding the Petitioner the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for life could not have added the riders that it should be for the rest of her natural life or that she would not be entitled to any remission", ruled the bench.

With this being the clear legal position, the bench held that the impugned order dated 5th June 2020 passed by the Divisional Commissioner, Hisar rejecting the Petitioner's application for parole on the above grounds is legally unsustainable and set it aside. The Petitioner's application for parole is remitted to the Divisional Commissioner, Hisar to consider afresh the Petitioner's application for parole in accordance with law

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[Read Order]




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