Life imprisonment: India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Concurrent terms

2015/SC rejects concept of consecutive life sentences

The Times of India, Oct 01 2015

SC: Can't give 3 life terms to convict as he has 1 life

Court Awards Life Sentence ToHizb Man in 1995 J&K Blasts

The Supreme Court rejected the CBI's plea for awarding three “consecutive life sentences“ to a Pakistani HizbulMujahideen operative, convicted for a bomb blast in Jammu in 1995 which claimed eight lives, and awarded life sentence to him saying “he has just one life“. The 76-year-old terrorist, Ghulam Nabi, was acquitted along with alleged Indian link Wasim Ahmed by the trial court for the three blasts at Maulana Azad Memorial Stadium in Jammu during the Republic Day function in 1995, allegedly aimed to eliminate then governor K V Krishna Rao, who had a narrow escape.

… but man who killed 2 can’t be freed after just 21 years: SC, 2021

Sep 21, 2021: The Times of India

A plea for premature release from jail by a life convict who has undergone more than 21 years of his sentence has been rejected by the Supreme Court after noting that he had been sentenced for more than one life imprisonment for causing deaths of two persons in separate cases.

As per Clause 5 of the policy framed by Madhya Pradesh, where the convict is undergoing jail term, those “life convicts who have been sentenced for one or more life imprisonment and who have undergone 20 years sentence, including the trial period, will be released after completion of 26 years of sentence including the remission”.

Referring to the policy, a bench headed by Justice Hemant Gupta said, “In terms of the policy of sentencing, there cannot be consecutive life imprisonment one after another. But the fact remains that for each death of the victims, the petitioner has been convicted for an offence under Section 302 IPC. Therefore, it would be Clause (5) which will be applicable to consider the premature release case of the petitioner as he has been sentenced for more than one life imprisonment for causing deaths of two persons. The competent authority has declined the case of remission on relying upon Clause (5). It is not a case of imposition of life imprisonment consecutively. It is a case of imposition of concurrent life imprisonment.”

The petitioner had been convicted for each death, the SC said but clarified it was not a case of consecutive life terms

Duration of life sentence

SC: People (wrongly) think life sentence is for 14 years

The Times of India, Sep 25 2015

Dhananjay Mahapatra

SC: People now think life sentence is only for 14 yrs

Taking note of the high-pitched push for abolition of death penalty when Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon desperately attempted to avoid the gallows, the Supreme Court asked whether life imprisonment could be truncated through remission if death penalty was done away with. The court was reacting to the demand from a section of egal experts for abolition of death penalty while dealing with petitions by five men rom Chhattisgarh challenging their conviction for a murder. They were seeking bail during pendency of their appeal on the ground that they had been in jail for more than five years.

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and V Gopala Gowda said, “Today , there is a movement against death penalty . They say that instead of hanging a condemned prisoner, put him in jail for entire life.“ The Supreme Court on Thursday , while raising the question whether abolition of death penalty and limiting life term to 14 years could co-exist, said, “Most of the prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment get out of jail after 14 years as government remits the rest of the sentence.And general public thinks that life imprisonment is only for 14 years. If convicts are awarded life sentence even in brutal and heinous crimes, they come to court and ask for bail during pendency of their appeal against conviction if they have served five or more years in jail on the ground that life sentence is only for 14 years. Is it not incongruous?“ The bench was possibly attempting to include an important point -if life sentence is to be awarded in `rarest of rare' category of murder cases where death penalty is given at present, would it mean these are at par with other life sentences spanning 14 years? Over the years, the SC has been extremely reluctant to award death penalty and has been finding some lacuna or the other in concurrent judgments of trial court and high court awarding death penalty to commute it to life imprisonment.

But it has been reluctant to completely do away with award of death penalty , saying there were certain cases where, as long as the extreme penalty was stipulated by law, capital punishment was in sync with the gravity and brutality of the crime and socie ty's cry for justice.

The attempt by the bench of Justices Thakur and Gowda will have a strong bearing on future debates and could well be taken note of by another bench which has reserved judgment on the crucial issue -whether life sentence means imprisonment for entire life -in the case relating to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Immediately after the SC commuted the death penalty of four convicts in the case to life imprisonment, the Tamil Nadu government used its constitutional power to decide commutation of the rest of their sentence saying they had already undergone 23 years imprisonment.

Premature release

Depends on state policy

Ajay Sura, HC: Premature release of life convict to bank on state policy, March 22, 2018: The Times of India

The Punjab and Haryana high court has made it clear that the case of premature release of a life convict should be considered by the state government in view of the policy that was in force at the time of the conviction.

Justice Jaishree Thakur of the high court passed these orders while disposing of a petition filed by life convict Gurmeet Singh of Bathinda who had completed around 23 years in jail in a murder and rape case and pleaded for premature release as per the state’s policy.

The Punjab government in this case was pressing that the accused was awarded life imprisonment for heinous crime and the sentence mean imprisonment for rest of the life.

Rejecting the state’s arguments, the HC observed that once the state government has taken a policy decision in regard to premature release of convicts who have been awarded imprisonment for life and, it is bound by its decision. The HC said that the accused was convicted by the sessions court, Bathinda on October 10, 1996 and the state’s policy pertaining to grant of premature release in force that time was the one announced on July 8, 1991.

In his plea before the HC, the petitioner had argued that having undergone more than 23 years of imprisonment, and including remissions, more than 31 years of sentence he would be entitled to premature release as he fulfilled all the conditions as per government instructions issued on July 8, 1991.

It was argued that his case was rejected by the government on September 17, 2015 on the ground that he had committed a heinous crime.

Governors, not States can release prematurely: SC

Dhananjay Mahapatra, August 4, 2021: The Times of India

In an interesting contrasting interpretation of powers for premature release of lifers, the Supreme Court said state governments have no power under the Criminal Procedure Code to release a person sentenced to life imprisonment prior to him undergoing a minimum 14-year jail term.

However, the governor using his powers under Article 161 of the Constitution can remit the sentence of a lifer even prior to serving 14 years in prison, said a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and A S Bopanna. The bench clarified that the governor could exercise his remission powers only on the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the CM.

Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana HC’s direction to the Haryana government to frame guidelines for exercise of remission powers by the governor, the SC said the power under Article 161 of the Constitution can be exercised by the state governments through the governor but not by the governor on his own.

Rigorous imprisonment

2021: Man gets 1 year’s RI for pulling hand of 8-yr old

Rebecca Samervel, Oct 20, 2021: The Times of India

A 31-year-old man was recently sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment (RI) for pulling his 8-year-old neighbour’s arm when drunk during Diwali last year. The court reasoned that while the act of holding hands did not reflect any sexual intent, there is cogent evidence to show that the accused used criminal force by pulling the hand of the girl. “The accused had knowledge that such acts will amount to outraging the modesty of the victim,” the special Pocso court said.

While the accused was also booked for touching the minor’s body inappropriately, he was acquitted on those charges. “As far as the accused touching the chest of victim, there is no cogent evidence on record. There is material variance in the evidence and statement of the victim before the police, Metropolitan Magistrate Court and also in the history narrated at the time of medical examination,” the court said. The court further said that there was no evidence on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed sexual assault and caused sexual harassment. The court added that as far as act pulling hand of the victim, there is consistent and cogent evidence and it has gone unchallenged.

The accused was also fined Rs 10,000, out of which Rs 8,000 will be given to the child as compensation. The accused was in jail since November 12, 2020, and his sentence will be set off against the period of detention undergone by him during investigation and trial.

While the maximum sentence for outraging modesty is two years imprisonment, the court said that considering the nature of offence, age of the accused and that his mother is dependent on him, a year’s sentence will meet the ends of justice.

White-collar crimes and LI

2019/ LI for cheating banks

Rebecca Samervel, May 1, 2019: The Times of India

In a third such judgment in a week, a special CBI court convicted and sentenced a 67-year-old man to life imprisonment and fined him Rs 5.03 crore for cheating State Bank of India of Rs 1.04 crore in 1996-97. Narendra C Patel was accused of forging signatures on bank documents for illegally withdrawing Rs 1 crore from the fixed deposit of an NRI couple in Sharjah. Special judge S R Tamboli found Patel guilty on six charges, including cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.

While in 2015, bank officials — then branch manager Vrushali Namjoshi and accountant Umakant Shirodkar — and businessman Homi Patrawala were convicted in the case and handed three and two-year sentences respectively, the case against Patel was separated after he went absconding. Patel was arrested in 2016 after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him.

While seeking maximum sentence against Patel, special public prosecutor Chetan Kumar Nandode said he did not deserve parity in sentencing with the other accused as his role was more serious. “This is an economic offence detrimental to the health of the nation and the accused remained absconding,” Nandode submitted. The court said that if Patel deposited the fine amount, Rs 5 crore was to be given to SBI, Hughes Road branch, as compensation. Last week, the court sentenced a conman to life for cheating a bank. On Friday, it sentenced six accused, including a fatherson duo, a former assistant general manager of Bank of India and a chartered accountant, to life in jail in another bank-cheating case.

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