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The Supreme Court today held that the punishment for murder as per Section 302 of Indian Penal code is death or life imprisonment and any punishment less than the life imprisonment is illegal and without the authority of law.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices RK Agarwal and AM Sapre which expressed its astonishment at the sentence of ten years imprisonment awarded by the Sessions Judge to a murder convict.
“We are surprised to find as to how the Sessions Judge could award 10 years’ jail sentence to the appellant for commission of offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.”
The Bench was adjudicating an appeal arising out of judgment rendered by the Gujarat High Court wherein the High Court had overturned the judgment passed by the trial court. The Sessions Judge has sentenced the convict to ten years imprisonment but the High Court had enhanced the same to “life imprisonment.”
Advocate Abhishek Singh, who appeared for the appellant, contended that he was not afforded adequate opportunity to defend himself in the appeal filed by the State for enhancement of sentence and hence the impugned judgment is rendered bad in law.
The State, however, supported the reasoning given by the High Court which had held that the trial Court committed a serious error in imposing the sentence. The High Court had held that,
“We find this appeal has to be inevitably allowed and the punishment of ten years’ R.I. as imposed by the trial Court has to be increased and brought to the level of minimum punishment to be imposed under Section 302 of IPC i.e., rigorous imprisonment for life.”
The Supreme Court in its judgment affirmed the reasoning given by the High Court. The Bench held that punishment for murder is death or life imprisonment and any punishment less than life imprisonment as prescribed under Section 302 IPC is illegal and without authority of law.
“Section 302 IPC, in clear terms, provides that “whoever commits murder shall be punished with “death” or “imprisonment for life” and shall also be liable to “fine”.
27. Any punishment less than the life imprisonment, as prescribed under Section 302 IPC, if awarded by any Court is per se illegal and without authority of law. Indeed, there is no such discretion left with the Court in awarding the punishment except to award the punishment which is prescribed under Section 302 IPC as mentioned above.”
While dismissing the appeal, the Bench held that the High Court was justified in modifying the sentence awarded to the appellant.
“We are of the considered opinion that the High Court was justified in modifying the jail sentence awarded to the appellant by the Sessions Judge and rightly enhanced the sentence by awarding punishment of “Life imprisonment” under Section 302 IPC to the appellant (accused) in place of “10 years jail sentence awarded by the Sessions, Judge.”
Read the judgment below.
Read Gujarat High Court’s order: