Life imprisonment can't simply end after 20 years: Supreme Court
New Delhi: In a significant judgment the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that there is no automatic release of a life convict after the expiry of 20 years of imprisonment.
The impact of his or her release on society and the victims have to be taken into consideration before ordering the release of such life convicts, it said.
This verdict is likely to have a huge bearing on the demand of seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking their release on the grounds that they have been in jail for over 25 years.
The Apex Court had already held that since Rajiv Gandhi case was investigated by the CBI, the State government should seek the consent of the Centre before ordering their release. The present verdict will be a setback for their immediate release.
Giving this ruling a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said under provisions of Cr.PC. a sentence of imprisonment for life does not automatically expire at the end of 20 years including the remissions, because the rules framed under the various Jail Manuals or under the Prisons Act cannot supersede the statutory provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
Justice Misra said, “A sentence of imprisonment for life means a sentence for the entire life of the prisoner unless the appropriate Government chooses to exercise its discretion to remit either the whole or a part of the sentence under Section 401 of the Cr.P.C. However, there is no indefeasible right of such prisoner to be unconditionally released on the expiry of such a particular terms, including remissions.
In this case, the bench was allowing an appeal filed by Gujarat challenging an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (the convict was shifted to a jail in Punjab and hence this HC assumed jurisdiction) directing the release of a life convict on parole for three months before considering his release.