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Can life term be rigorous? Convict challenges verdict

india Updated: Dec 19, 2008 01:32 IST
Satya Prakash

Can a court make life imprisonment awarded to a convict rigorous as well? The question has been raised in a petition filed by a murder convict from Kutch before the Supreme Court, which is likely to come up for hearing on Friday.

Petitioner Balchandra Parmanand Panchal has challenged a June 2008 order of the Gujarat High Court that had upheld the trial court’s decision to sentence him to “rigorous imprisonment for life” with a fine of Rs 20,000.

Panchal, who has also challenged his conviction, contended that the decision to make the life imprisonment rigorous was not proper, as the word “rigorous” has not been used in Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to Section 302 of IPC, “Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”

He further contended that rigorous imprisonment for life couldn't be awarded under Section 302 of IPC as it would violate the mandatory provisions under Section 354 of Criminal Procedure Code and Section 53 of IPC.

Section 354 of the CrPC says that in criminal cases judgments have to be written mentioning the specific offence, punishment and the Section of IPC under which the accused has been convicted, while Section 53 of IPC lists various types of punishments.

Under this section, Imprisonment for life and rigorous imprisonment i.e. with hard labour, have been listed separately, the petitioner pointed out.

In the absence of any statutory backing such a punishment (rigorous imprisonment for life) would be arbitrary and violative of his fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution, Panchal said in his petition.

The convict emphasised on the point that wherever the Legislature intended to provide for rigorous imprisonment, it has specifically used the word “rigorous” in the IPC and courts cannot read something which was not there in the statute.