By Adv. Aashit A. Kankariya


1. We live in a society whereby the rule of law is of utmost importance  and that therefore nobody is above the realm of law. Such a  principal is very effective and helps us live peacefully wherein  persons unfit to live in society are sent for reformative  rehabilitation in Prisons so that there can be transformation of  such individuals and give them the ability to live in society. As we  are aware that the duration of such rehabilitation programmes  considerably varies upon each individual and the crime/s that  he/she has committed.  

2. One may choose to call such term as Punishments and not  rehabilitation, however, there are several theories to disprove the  same. In the opinion of the author, based upon the jurisprudence,  it shall always be a Rehabilitation.  

However, at umpteen times we come across conviction for Death  or Life Imprisonment. Such sentences are generally given for  heinous crimes whereby sentences in the form of Capital  Punishment are implemented for individuals who have little to no  hope of rehabilitating.  

3. A very interesting question arises from such a conviction  regarding the sentence of life imprisonment. A layman who rightly  assume that such a sentence needs no interpretation and it  clearly means that imprisonment till the natural course of life.  

4. The appropriate Government is empowered to commute or change  the sentence given to an individual by the judiciary in cases of life 

imprisonment or death u/s 54 & 55 IPC. However, such  change/reduction in cases of life imprisonment cannot be lowered  than 14 years i.e one has to mandatorily serve the sentence of 14  years incase of life imprisonment irrespective of the opinion of the  Appropriate Government. It may also be noted that a convict  cannot claim such as a matter of right and it is solely the  discretion of the Appropriate Government to exercise its right.  

5. In the case of Vikas Yadav v/s State of UP, (2016) 9 SCC 541, the  Hon’ble Supreme Court specifically held that if the court  specifically mentions the period of imprisonment, then section 55  IPC would not be applicable here. 

Example- ‘A’ convicted of murder has been sentenced to 25 years  of imprisonment. Here the Appropriate Government is not  empowered to commute the sentence and ‘A’ would have to  mandatorily serve such period.  

6. In the case of Gopal Vinayak Godse vs The State Of Maharashtra,  1961 AIR 600, the Hon’ble Supreme Court consisting of 5 bench  held that life imprisonment is life imprisonment and nothing else  and therefore a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment is obliged  to spend the rest of his life in prison. But it has not been denied  that such a sentence could be commuted or waived by the  competent authority, in this logic it was confirmed by a chamber  of three judges of the Supreme Court that the Criminal Code and  the Rules of Procedure clearly distinguish between life and prison  sentences. 

7. In Subhash Chander v/s Krishnan lal & Ors., (2001) 4 SCC 458,  the Hon’ble Supreme Court Court held that life  imprisonment means imprisonment for the whole of the 

remaining period of the convicted person’s natural life unless the  appropriate Government chooses to exercise its discretion to remit  either the whole or a part of the sentence. Similar was the view  taken by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Shri Bhagwan v/s State  of Rajasthan, (2001) 6 SCC 296. 

8. As per Section 31 CrPC, if there is consecutive sentencing for  several offences arising from a single trial, 31(2) CrPC limits the  sentencing total to 14 years. In the case of Duryodhan Raut v/s  State of Orissa, Cr.(A) 2277-2278 of 2009, the Hon’ble Supreme  Court held that the sentence of imprisonment for life means  imprisonment for the remainder of the life of the prisoner. The  Court further held that u/s 31 of the Cr.P.C. would not permit  consecutive running of life sentence and the term sentence since  the aggregate punishment of the petitioner would go beyond the  outer limit of 14 years stipulated in the proviso to section 31(2) of  the Cr.P.C. 

9. Thus, the law is amply clear that Life means remainder of natural  life and that the proviso u/s 31(2) CrPC of maximum 14 years  cannot be claimed by a convict nor is the convict entitled as a  matter of right for remission of his sentence u/s 54 & 55 IPC.  

-Adv. Aashit A. Kankariya

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