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Trial Courts Cannot Impose Life Imprisonment Till Death Or Without Remission Except In Rape Cases: Calcutta High Court

Aaratrika Bhaumik
8 April 2022 2:24 PM GMT
Trial Courts Cannot Impose Life Imprisonment Till Death Or Without Remission Except In Rape Cases: Calcutta High Court
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In a significant ruling, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday issued a directive to trial courts in West Bengal stipulating that a sentence of life imprisonment till death, without any scope of remission, can only be passed in rape cases. A Bench comprising Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Bivas Pattanayak observed that such a sentence of life imprisonment till one's death...

In a significant ruling, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday issued a directive to trial courts in West Bengal stipulating that a sentence of life imprisonment till death, without any scope of remission, can only be passed in rape cases. 

A Bench comprising Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Bivas Pattanayak observed that such a sentence of life imprisonment till one's death can only be imposed by the higher judiciary that is the Supreme Court or the High Court when commuting death sentences.

Relying on Supreme Court decisions in Union of India v. V Sriharan Alias Murugan and Others and Gauri Shankar v. State of Punjab, the Court issued the following directions to all trial Court judges in the State, 

"Except in cases where the law provides for a sentence of imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of the person's natural life (e.g., sections 376A, 376AB, 376D, 376DA, 376DB and 376E of I.P.C.), trial Courts while imposing a sentence of life imprisonment as provided under section 53 of I.P.C. shall not qualify the said sentence by directing that the sentence shall continue till the death of the convict or without remission as prescribed in law."

The Court observed that it has noted in a number of cases the propensity amongst Trial Court judges to impose a sentence of life imprisonment till death. Thus, the Court opined that it felt the need to issue a practice direction to all the judicial officers in the State so that in similar cases they do not fall in error and impose sentence of life imprisonment without remission.

The High Court's Registrar-General was directed to circulate the directive to all judicial officers in the State for 'intimation and due adherence in future' and so that in similar cases they do not fall in error.

The Court was adjudicating upon an appeal against a conviction for murder and offences under the Arms Act, where the sentence of one of the appellants was of life imprisonment till death. While upholding the conviction, the Court however underscored that such sentences cannot be imposed by a trial court, but only by the Supreme Court or High Courts on converting a death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

"Even then, the Court's discretion does not encroach on the constitutional powers of the President of India or the Governor under Article 72/161 of the Constitution of India respectively," the Bench observed.

The Bench further observed that imposition of such a sentence, that is, life imprisonment without remission under section 433A of the Cr.P.C. cannot be imposed by the trial Court for the offence punishable under section 302/34 of the I.P.C. 

The Court further added that the period of detention the appellants had undergone during investigation, enquiry and trial will be set off from the sentence. 

Case Title: Monirul Molla v. The State of West Bengal

Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 112

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