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State of Rajasthan and Ors. Vs. Mukesh Sharma and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (22 Apr 2019)

Remission after completion of 14 years in custody is not a matter of right, but is dependent on a host of considerations



In present case, each of the Respondents in the respective appeals was convicted under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and other provisions of the IPC in different Sessions trials arising from separate unconnected incidents and sentenced to imprisonment for life. They filed individual writ petitions contending that, they had served more than 14 years in custody but their cases were not placed by the Jail Authorities before the State Advisory Boards for shortening of their sentences and premature release.

The constitutional validity of Rule 8(2)(i) of the Rajasthan Prisons (Shortening of Sentences) Rules, 2006, was challenged, putting a fetter on consideration of their cases till they earned a minimum of four years of remission after completing 14 years of actual imprisonment excluding remission, as being contrary to Section 433-A of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). Issue in present matter is whether High Court erred in striking down Rule 8(2)(i) of Rules, requiring a minimum of four years remission after completion of 14 years in custody

Section 433-A of CrPC stipulates that, where sentence for imprisonment for life is imposed for an offence for which death is one of the punishments such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment. Thus, the State in its wisdom could easily provide that life imprisonment shall not be subject to any remission or provide limitations on the same. Remission, in the present case, being a matter of State policy as incorporated in statutory Rules falling within the domain of the State, could not be claimed as a matter of fundamental right.

Part-3 of the Rajasthan Prison Rules, 1951, under the heading Remission System, in Rule 1(e) provides that, the sentence for imprisonment for life or transportation of life shall be deemed to mean imprisonment for 20 years. Rule 2(e) of the Rules 2006, defines shortening of sentence to mean the reduction of that period of sentence of a prisoner which he has to serve in the prison upon a judicially pronounced sentence as a matter of grace on the part of the State and as a recognition of his good behaviour in the prison.

Section 432 of CrPC provides for the power to suspend or remit sentences and also to refuse the same. Section 433 (b) of CrPC provides for commuting a sentence of imprisonment for life to 14 years. Section 433-A of CrPC provides that, remission or commutation shall not enable release of the convict from prison unless the person had served at least 14 years of imprisonment. It, therefore, fixes a minimum period before which remission could not be considered. Any Rule that may provide to consider remission before 14 years would obviously be bad in view of the statutory provision contained in the CrPC.

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.

It is, therefore, held that, the High Court erred in striking down Rule 8(2)(i) of the Rules, 2006 on both counts. The Rule is held to be valid and consistent with the law. The impugned orders of the High Court are set aside and the appeals are allowed.


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