Punjab & Haryana High Court
Punjab & Haryana High Court
Litigation News

Lifelong incarceration without remission cannot be imposed by trial courts: Punjab & Haryana HC

The Bench held that life imprisonment with riders that deny remission of sentence or parole, or which mandate the imprisonment to be lifelong cannot be handed out by trial courts.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Punjab and Haryana Court through a Division Bench of Justice Dr Murlidhar and Justice Avneesh Jhingan has reiterated that Trial courts have no power to impose the penalty of lifelong imprisonment without remission or parole (Savitri v. State of Haryana and ors).

The Bench was hearing a petition challenging the Hisar Divisional Commissioner's order rejecting a petitioner's request for parole, on the ground that the terms of her imprisonment sentence, imposed by a trial court, did not allow her parole.

The petitioner had been sentenced to imprisonment for the whole of her natural life without remission by a trial court in 2018 for murder and other offences, on account of her involvement in Baba Rampal's crimes.

A co-convict who was also sentenced on similar terms was allowed parole despite the sentence, the counsel for the petitioner submitted before the High Court.

Holding that the power to impose such punishments was vested only with Constitutional courts (High Courts and the Supreme Court), the Punjab and Haryana High Court has now directed its judgment and the Supreme Court's ruling in V Sriharan to be circulated among jail authorities in the State.

The Supreme Court's Constitution bench judgment in Union of India v. V. Sridharan had specifically stated 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.

"... after the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in V. Sriharan (supra), it is not open to a court inferior to the High Court and Supreme Court, while awarding a sentence of life imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code to further provide for any specific term of incarceration, or till the end of a convict’s life, or to direct that there shall be no remission, as an alternate to the death penalty", reads the High Court's order.

Noting that the petitioner's challenge to her conviction was pending in a separate case before the Court, the Bench found it necessary to decide the question because the appeal was unlikely to be heard "in the near future". The Court noted her applications for parole would not be considered unless there was a determination of the correctness of her sentence.

On these grounds, the Court set aside the order rejecting her parole and ordered it to be reconsidered before August 31, 2020.

The petitioner's case was argued by Advocate Arjun Sheoran while Additional Advocate General Ankur Mittal appeared for the State.

Read the Order here:

Savitri v. State of Haryana and Ors. - Order dated August 19, 2020.pdf
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