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Trial courts have no power to impose lifelong imprisonment without remission, rules P&H HC

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New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that trial courts have no power to impose the penalty of lifelong imprisonment without remission or parole. The court was hearing a petition challenging the Hisar Divisional Commissioner‘s order rejecting a petitioner’s request for parole. The reason given for this rejection was that the terms of her imprisonment sentence, imposed by a trial court, did not allow her parole.

The division bench of Justice Dr Murlidhar and Justice Avneesh Jhingan has set aside the order rejecting her parole and ordered it to be reconsidered before August 31. 

Advocate Arjun Sheoran argued for the petitioner that his client 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.

Baba Rampal

The court held that the power to impose such punishments was vested only with constitutional courts, that is the high courts and the Supreme Court.

A judgment given by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Union of India vs 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.

The Court said: “…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.”

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”, observed by the High Court.

Read Alos: Law of Contempt Versus Independence of Judiciary Case Analysis: Prashant Bhushan

“With this being the clear legal position, the impugned order dated 5th June 2020 passed by the Divisional Commissioner, Hisar rejecting the Petitioner’s application for parole on the above grounds is legally unsustainable and is hereby, set aside. The Petitioner’s application for parole is remitted to the Divisional Commissioner, Hisar to consider afresh the Petitioner’s application for parole in accordance with law. The further ground pointed out by the Petitioner that Pawan, a convict in the related FIR, has been granted parole will be taken note of by the Divisional Commissioner while passing an order afresh on the Petitioner’s application for parole. The fresh order be passed not later than 31st August, 2020 and communicated to the Petitioner forthwith and in any event not later than 2nd September 2020. If aggrieved by such order, it will be open to the Petitioner to seek appropriate remedies available to her in accordance with law. The petition is disposed of in the above terms,” the Court said in its order.

Read the order here;

Savitri-v-State-of-Haryana-and-Ors-Order_dated_August_19__2020

– India Legal Bureau

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