The Supreme Court cited the 1983 verdict by the top court, which held that “sentence of imprisonment for life has to be equated to rigorous imprisonment for life.” (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
The Supreme Court cited the 1983 verdict by the top court, which held that “sentence of imprisonment for life has to be equated to rigorous imprisonment for life.” (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

Life term for convict means rigorous imprisonment, says Supreme Court

The question, whether a life term necessarily means a rigorous imprisonment or simple imprisonment, came before the court in two appeals by murder convicts whose appeals were dismissed by the Gauhati high court and the Himachal Pradesh high court
By Abraham Thomas
UPDATED ON SEP 15, 2021 12:42 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Life imprisonment awarded to a convict will mean rigorous imprisonment, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, reiterating the view taken by the top court in a 1983 decision.

The question came before the court in two appeals filed by murder convicts whose appeals challenging their conviction were dismissed by the Gauhati high court and the Himachal Pradesh high court. In both cases, the convicts were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life for killing their wives.

Without getting into the facts of the two appeals, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai examined if a convict undergoing a sentence of life imprisonment has to undergo rigorous imprisonment or simple imprisonment.

The term, “rigorous imprisonment”, is found in Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code which categorizes the nature of punishment for convicts. The provision defines rigorous imprisonment as “imprisonment with hard labour”. The court decided to examine this point since Section 53 IPC categorizes life imprisonment separately from rigorous imprisonment.

The two-judge bench noted that in Naib Singh vs State of Punjab (1983), the Supreme Court answered this question by stating that “sentence of imprisonment for life has to be equated to rigorous imprisonment for life.”

As the issue was squarely covered by the 1983 decision, the bench said, “The law laid down by this court in Naib Singh’s case was followed subsequently in three judgments…. In view of the authoritative pronouncements of this court on the issues that arise for consideration in these special leave petitions, there is no need to re-examine the limited point for which notice was issued.”

The Assam government informed the court that one of the convicts, Mohammad Altaf Ali had undergone only nine years of imprisonment from the date of the incident in October 2006. Last year, he was granted an annual leave of 30 days following which he absconded and surrendered two months later.

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