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Can life imprisonment be “rigorous”? Supreme Court to examine

Murali Krishnan

Can the sentence of life imprisonment be qualified by the word “rigorous”? The Supreme Court of India will decide this issue as a Bench comprising Justices PC Ghose and UU Lalit issued notice to the State of Chhattisgarh  in a petition filed by one Ram Kumar Sivare.

According to PTI, Senior Advocate Parmanand Katara appeared for the petitioner.

By way of background, the petitioner, Ram Kumar Sivare was convicted for murder. He was awarded “rigorous” life imprisonment by the lower court which was confirmed by the Chhattisgarh High Court. The present appeal arises out of the judgment of Chhattisgarh High Court.

The petitioner has contended that penal laws do not empower courts to qualify life imprisonment with the term “rigorous” and hence the judgments awarding “rigorous” life imprisonment is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

When the matter came up for hearing on December 16, the Court issued notice on the limited issue of whether life imprisonment could be coupled with the condition that such imprisonment has to be rigorous. The rest of the contentions of the petitioner were dismissed.

“Let notice be issued in the matter limited to the question whether life imprisonment could be coupled with the condition that such imprisonment has to be rigorous imprisonment, returnable after four weeks. All other contentions of the learned Senior counsel for the petitioner are dismissed.”

Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code sets out kinds of punishments to which offenders are liable under the Code. Simple imprisonment and Rigorous imprisonment are discussed under the said Section. Rigorous imprisonment is termed as imprisonment with “hard labour”. However, what is noteworthy is that imprisonment for life is a separate category in itself as per Section 53 and it is not qualified by terms like “simple” or “rigorous”.

Interestingly, another bench of Supreme Court had issued notice in a similar case from Maharashtra four years ago. Senior Advocate Parmanand Katara had appeared in that case too for the convict. That case is still pending as per the information available on the website of Supreme Court of India.

Read the order dated December 16, 2016 below. 

Ram-Kumar-Sivare-v.-State-of-Chhatisgarh.pdf
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