Can murder convicts be sentenced to ‘rigorous’ life imprisonment?December 18th, 2008 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) A murder convict sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment has approached the Supreme Court of India asking whether courts at all are empowered to make his stay in jail harsh as well.The case will be taken up for hearing Friday.
The convict contends the courts cannot make his life sentence additionally rigorous because section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides for punishment to murder convicts, does not provide laborious imprisonment at all.
The contention has been raised by Balchandra Parmanand Panchal, undergoing rigorous life imprisonment in a Kutch jail in Gujarat. He was convicted along with one of his two sons on charges of murdering a neighbour.
The second son, who too faced the trial, however, was acquitted.
The murder was committed in August 1999. A Kutch session court sentenced him to jail for life in June 2001 and the Gujarat High Court upheld his conviction and the sentence in June 2008. Panchal has come to the apex court challenging the Gujarat High Court ruling.
“Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine,” pointed out Panchal in petition to the apex court, quoting section 302.
Advocate Pandit Parmanand Katara told IANS that the courts can even send his client to gallows or simply sentence him to life in jail, but cannot make his life sentence additionally rigorous.
Katara said Panchal’s petition will be taken up for hearing Friday by an apex court bench headed by Justice Tarun Chatterjee for the first time.
The petition points out that the Indian Penal Code, originally enacted in 1860 provided for transportation for life to a murder convict to “Kala Pani” or Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
But after India’s independence, section 302 of the IPC was amended in 1956, when the phrase “transportation for life” was changed to imprisonment for life.
The petition argues that it was not even the intention of the legislature or parliament to make the jail term of the murder convicts additionally strenuous or rigorous.
“Had it been so, the parliament, while amending section 302 of the IPC, would have also inserted the word rigorous in the provision,” said Katara.