Remission not a matter of right, subject to State Policy: Supreme Court

Remission not a matter of right, subject to State Policy: Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of Rule 8(2)(i) of the Rajasthan Prisons (Shortening of Sentences) Rules, 2006, which deals with remission of convicts.

The batch of appeals filed by various litigants challenged the constitutional validity of Rule 8(2)(i) of the Rajasthan Prison Rules. The convicts in the case were sentenced to life imprisonment, and had all served a minimum jail-term of 14 years. However, their cases were not placed before the State Advisory Board for shortening their sentences.

Rule under challenge

The Rule is applicable to persons convicted and awarded life imprisonment for:

  • Offences for which one of the prescribed punishments is the death penalty or;
  • Offences for which death penalty has been commuted to a life term under Section 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Such a person’s application for shortening of the sentence or for premature release can be considered only after she has served a period of 14 years in prison. This period of 14 years includes the time spent in detention during the investigation, trial, etc, but excludes remission. Another requirement for the application to be considered is that the convict shall have earned a minimum period of four years in remission.

This Rule was struck down by the Rajasthan High Court on the ground that it was not presented before the State Legislature prior to promulgation. It was also held that the provision was manifestly contrary to Section 433 of the CrPC, which restricts the power of the state government to commute the sentence of a convict. The State of Rajasthan approached the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s decision.

Arguments before the Supreme Court

Senior Counsel Manish Singhvi, arguing for the appellant, submitted that the High Court erred in its verdict, given that mandatory placing of the Rules before the Legislature was not a pre-condition. The provision for placing the Rules before the Legislature was directory and not mandatory in nature, and thus, the absence of this exercise does not render the Rule invalid, it was argued.

As regards the Rule being contrary to Section 433, it was contended that remission of the sentence after serving 14 years in prison was not a matter of right. The state government could put limitations on the same, as remission was a matter of state policy.

Counsel for the respondents argued that the state policy on remission of sentence was ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Rule would make it virtually impossible for a convict to be considered for remission and would be contrary to Section 433-A of the CrPC to the extent that it restricts consideration for remission after 14 years.

The Verdict

The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha held that the language of the legislation made it clear that the requirement of placing the Rules before the Legislature for promulgation was directive in nature, not mandatory.

On the question of remission as a matter of state policy, the Court held,

“Manifestly remission not being a matter of right, much less upon completion of 14 years of custody, but subject to rules framed in that regard, including complete denial of the same in specified circumstances, as a matter of State policy, nothing prevents the State from imposing restrictions in the manner done by Rule 8(2)(i) to consider claims for remission.”

The Court thus held that the High Court erred in striking down the Rule on both grounds, and therefore allowed the appeals.

Read the Judgment:

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