Life Imprisonment in India – By Isha
It is often shown in the Bollywood movies that a hero comes out of the jail after completing life imprisonment of 14 years. But does a life imprisonment is of 14 years or 20 years or does it actually mean till the end of one’s life.
To understand the concept of Life imprisonment we need to know the important provisions in Indian Penal Code and Criminal Code regarding life imprisonment and it’s commutation.
Section 53, IPC
This section deals with various kinds of punishment. There are five kinds of punishment:
Imprisonment- Simple and Rigorous
Forfeiture of Property
Suppose, if a person is awarded life imprisonment. After the sentence of life imprisonment, the person is sent to the custody of either the central government or state government. Now, it is the responsibility of the government to execute the life imprisonment of the convict.
Section 55, IPC
It deals with commutation. Commutation is the act of changing a punishment to one that is less severe. It gives power to the Government to commute life sentence. It authorises the Central or State Government to commute the life imprisonment of a convict for a term not exceeding 14 years without his consent on the basis of his mental condition, health, behaviour, family situation etc.
Under Article 72 and Article 161 , the President and the Governor respectively has the power to pardon, reprieve, respites, or remit the punishment of the offender.
Section 57, IPC
It deals with calculating fractions of terms of punishment. This section states that the term for increasing or decreasing punishment is 20 years.
Due to this, misconception arises that life imprisonment is of maximum 14 or 20 years which is not the case.
Section 432 ( Power to suspend or remit sentences) and 433 ( power to commute sentences) of CrPC
These sections states that, the appropriate government may, without the consent of the person can commute or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced.
Section 433A, CrPC
It provides restriction on powers of remission or commutation in certain cases. It states that an offender who was imposed with death penalty has been commuted to life imprisonment under section 433, such person has to serve at least 14 years of imprisonment.
It was enacted to deny premature release before completion of 14 years.
There is nothing which limits life imprisonment to 14 or 20 years. It is a misconception spread out in India that after the completion of 14 years the convict is set free. The Supreme Court had clarified that life imprisonment means that the convict will be in prison for the rest of his life. The minimum 14 year limit is a separate provision of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that State governments can remit or commute the life imprisonment but a convict has to undergo at least 14 years of imprisonment. Some State governments are misusing this provision to reduce the punishment of the convicts. Last year the home ministry has told states to stop this wholesale remission and start dealing with cases on a one-to-one basis.