New Delhi: Amid demand for proper implementation of criminal laws, the Centre has asked state governments not to grant remission in a "wholesale manner" in cases where a death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment or where life imprisonment is imposed for which death is one of the punishments prescribed by law.
Quoting the Supreme Court rulings, the Home Ministry has asked the states and Union Territories to consider the grant of remission in cases, where a death sentence has been commuted to imprisonment of life or where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed for which death is one of the punishments prescribed by law, only on a case-to-case basis.
"It should scrupulously follow the check prescribed u/s 433 A of the Cr. P. C and also not grant remission in a wholesale manner," a Home Ministry advisory said.
The power of remission of sentences has been give under Article 161 of the Constitution and sections 432, 433 and 433A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
Section 433 A of the Cr. P. C reads as follows:
433-A. Restriction on powers of remission or commutation in certain cases.
Notwithstanding anything contained in section 432, where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.
The Home Ministry said the Supreme Court decided that "there is a misconception that a prisoner serving a life sentence has an indefeasible right to release on completion of either fourteen years or twenty years imprisonment.
The prisoner has no such right. A convict undergoing life imprisonment is expected to remain in custody till the end of his life, subject to any remission granted by the government under section 432 of the Cr. P. C which in turn is subject to the procedural checks in that Section and the substantive check in Section 433-A of the Cr. P. C.
The grant of remission is statutory. However, to prevent its arbitrary exercise, the legislature has built in some procedural and substantive checks in the statute. These need to be faithfully enforced, the advisory said.
Remission can be granted under section 432 of the Cr. P. C in the case of a definite term of sentence. The power under this Section is available only for granting ‘additional’ remission, i.e.- For a period over and above the remission granted or awarded to a convict under the Jail Manual or other statutory rules, it said.
If the term of sentence is indefinite (as in life imprisonment), the power under section 432 of the Cr. P. C can certainly be exercised but not on the basis that life imprisonment is an arbitrary or notional figure of twenty years of imprisonment, said the advisory.
Before actually exercising the power of remission under Section 432 of the Cr. P. C, the government must obtain the opinion (with reasons) of the presiding judge of the convicting or confirming court, it said.
Remission can, therefore, be given only on a case-by-case basis and not in a wholesale manner, the advisory added.