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Trial Court Cannot Direct Life Sentence Should Extend To Remainder Of Life Without Remission : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
6 March 2022 4:23 AM GMT
Trial Court Cannot Direct Life Sentence Should Extend To Remainder Of Life Without Remission : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court has reiterated that Trial Court does not have the jurisdiction to sentence an accused to life imprisonment which is to extend to the remainder of their life. Taking note of the Constitution Bench judgment in Union of India Vs. V. Sriharan @ Muruganand Others 2016 (7) SCC 1, a Bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka modified the sentence of...

The Supreme Court has reiterated that Trial Court does not have the jurisdiction to sentence an accused to life imprisonment which is to extend to the remainder of their life.

Taking note of the Constitution Bench judgment in Union of India Vs. V. Sriharan @ Muruganand Others 2016 (7) SCC 1, a Bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka modified the sentence of life imprisonment extending to the remainder of the natural life, imposed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court to life imprisonment simpliciter.

"After we have heard the learned Counsel for the parties and taking note of the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court reported in 2016 (7) SCC 1, the sentence of life imprisonment which shall be extended to remainder of life passed by the learned trial court by judgment dated 19.12.2013 and confirmed by the High Court on dismissal of appeal stands modified with the sentence for imprisonment for life."

In V. Sriharan, it was held that the power to impose a modified punishment providing for any specific term of incarceration or till the end of the convict's life as an alternate to death penalty, can be exercised only by the High Court and the Supreme Court and not by any other inferior court. The Constitution Bench clarified that the trial court cannot curtail the right of the convict to seek remission.

The Constitution Bench held :

"105. We, therefore, reiterate that the power derived from Penal Code for any modified punishment within the punishment provided for in the Penal Code for such specified offences can only be exercised by the High Court and in the event of further appeal only by the Supreme Court and not by any other court in this country. To put it differently, the power to impose a modified punishment providing for any specific term of incarceration or till the end of the convict's life as an alternate to death penalty, can be exercised only by the High Court and the Supreme Court and not by any other inferior court."

While serving life imprisonment in another case, the accused had attacked and killed the Jailor of Central Jail, Jodhpur with whom on several occasions he had a row. After committing the offence the accused had tried to flee, but was caught by the 'Mukhya Prahari'. His custody was sought through a production warrant procured from the CJM, Jodhpur and he was arrested. Thereafter, witness statements were recorded; the accused was interrogated; recoveries were made under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. After conducting investigation a charge-sheet was filed for offence under Section 302 IPC. The Trial Court framed charges and eventually convicted and sentenced the accused to life imprisonment extending to the remainder of his natural life, which would indicate that the imprisonment is without scope for remission. On appeal, the Rajasthan High Court vide order dated 04.10.2019, refused to interfere with the judgment of the Trial Court -

"Having discussed and evaluated the entire record thoroughly and minutely, we are of the firm opinion that the trial court, appreciated the entire evidence available on record in an absolutely apropos manner and arrived at the only possible conclusion i.e. the guilt of the accused. The impugned judgment dated 19.12.2013 passed by the learned Sessions Judge, District Jodhpur does not suffer from any infirmity or error, factual or legal, warranting interference."

On 06.10.2021, the Apex Court had issued notice on the specific issue of imposition of life imprisonment, which would extend to the remainder of life, by the Trial Court.

"Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner submits that while convicting the petitioner for offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, the Ld.Trial Judge has punished him with life imprisonment for the entire life span which according to the learned senior counsel is beyond jurisdiction of the Ld.Trial Judge and placed reliance on the judgment of this Court reported in 2016 (7) SCC 1.

Issue notice, for this limited purpose."

[Case Title: Narendra Singh @ Mukesh @ Bhura v. State of Rajasthan SLP (Crl) No. 7830 of 2021]

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 247

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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