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Madhav Shankar Sonawane Vs. State of Maharashtra - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 1029 of 1980 and Criminal Revn. Appln. No. 231 of 1981
Judge
Reported in1982(1)BomCR702; (1982)84BOMLR340; 1982CriLJ1762
ActsConstitution Of India - Articles 72 and 161; Indian Penal Code 1860 - Sections 34 and 302; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973 - Sections 432 and 433
AppellantMadhav Shankar Sonawane
RespondentState of Maharashtra
Excerpt:
.....433, 482, 28, 29 -- constitution of india, articles 72, 161 -- offence of murder -- sentence of life imprisonment -- whether court has power to regulate duration of imprisonment by prescribing minimum of more than fourteen years -- scope of judicial powers and executive powers in matter of sentence.;any direction which will require an accused sentenced to life imprisonment to undergo a minimum imprisonment as will be specified by the court, if it is more than fourteen years, is bound to trench upon the powers of the executive specially bestowed upon it under sections 432 and 433 of the code of criminal procedure. such a direction also takes away the right of a convict to claim pardon or remission from the president of india and the governor under articles 72 and 101 of the..........earlier division bench had taken the view that a direction specifying that an accused sentenced to life imprisonment should not be released unless he undergone a minimum period of sentence of 25 years could be given and that the possibility of the lower courts making such directions could not be ruled out, he thought it necessary to bring the matter to the notice of the division bench in the form of an argument that such a direction should be given in the instant case also, so that the correct legal position could be laid down.4. though it was not possible for the learned public prosecutor to support the view taken by the earlier division bench, with his assistance we have considered the legal position as it emerges from the relevant provisions of the penal code, the criminal procedure.....
Judgment:

Chandurkar, J.

1. This criminal appeal by the accused, who has been convicted of the offence under Section 302, Indian Penal Code and sentenced to imprisonment for life for the said offence, has been referred to the Full Bench by Dharmadhikari and Mohta, JJ. because they doubted the correctness of the direction given by another Division Bench of this Court in State of Maharashtra v. Manohar Kashinath Ghodake : (1982)84BOMLR29 which required that the accused in that case, who was also convicted of the offence under Section 307 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code as well as under Section 307 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 'will remain in jail at least for a period of 25 years notwithstanding the remissions and concessions, if any, granted to him under the relevant rules'.

2. It is clear that on behalf of the State a similar direction was sought in the present appeal, but the Division Bench found that there was no power in the Court to say that the convict shall undergo imprisonment for a particular minimum period because any direction with regard to the minimum period required to be undergone by way of sentence by an accused would encroach upon the filed reserved for the executive and would be contrary to the provisions of Section 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is not necessary for us to refer to the facts leading to the conviction of the appellant because the facts and the evidence relied upon by the prosecution have been set out in great detail in the judgment of the Division Bench. The Division Bench has confirmed the conviction of the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. It was argued before the Division Bench that the Sessions Judge having awarded sentence of imprisonment for life on the facts of the case, no enhancement of the sentence was called for and the Division Bench discharged the notice for enhancement of the sentence and confirmed the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded by the trial Court. It was insisted on behalf of the State that the Court should at least give a direction that the accused should not be allowed to come out of the jail in any case before the completion of 25 years of imprisonment. Such a request was made in view of the decision of the Division Bench of this Court in Manohar Ghodake's case cited supra. The Division Bench, however, took the view that they found it difficult to hold 'that it is permissible for the Courts to direct the life convict to undergo imprisonment for a minimum period different than the one prescribed by the legislature notwithstanding the remissions that he may earn as per law'. The Division Bench took the view that any view to the contrary would amount to re-enacting Section 433A of the Criminal Procedure Code and would encroach upon the filed reserved for executive and the Court was concerned merely with the passing of the sentence. The Division Bench also referred to the provisions of Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution of India which dealt with the power of the President and the Governor to grant pardon, suspend or commute the sentence in certain cases and the Division Bench took the view that it will not be permissible for the Courts to say that despite exercise of the constitutional jurisdiction by the high constitutional functionaries, namely, the President and the Governor, the convict shall undergo imprisonment for a particular minimum period. Having thus doubted the correctness of the view taken in Ghodake's case, the appeal has been referred to the Full Bench.

3. We may at the outset make it clear that the learned Public Prosecutor Mr. Barday, who also appeared in the appeal on behalf of the State before the Division Bench, found himself unable to support the view taken by the earlier Division Bench in Ghodake's case. The learned Public Prosecutor, however, made it clear that since the earlier Division Bench had taken the view that a direction specifying that an accused sentenced to life imprisonment should not be released unless he undergone a minimum period of sentence of 25 years could be given and that the possibility of the lower Courts making such directions could not be ruled out, he thought it necessary to bring the matter to the notice of the Division Bench in the form of an argument that such a direction should be given in the instant case also, so that the correct legal position could be laid down.

4. Though it was not possible for the learned Public Prosecutor to support the view taken by the earlier Division Bench, with his assistance we have considered the legal position as it emerges from the relevant provisions of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Constitution of India.

4A. Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code provides that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine. Section 55 of the Indian Penal Code provides that in every case in which sentence of imprisonment for life shall have been passed, the appropriate Government may without the consent of the offender commute the punishment for imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding 14 years. What was the length of imprisonment which a life convict was required to undergo was considered by the Supreme Court in Gopal Vinayak Godse v. State of Maharashtra, : 1961CriLJ736a . Posing the question as to whether there is any provision of law whereunder a sentence for life imprisonment without any formal remission by the appropriate Government can be automatically treated as one for a definite period, the Supreme Court pointed out that no such provision is found in the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code or the Prisons Act. The Supreme Court has clearly held that a sentence of transportation for life or imprisonment for life must prima facie be treated as transportation or imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of the convicted person's natural life. It must, therefore, now be taken as well settled that where a person has been convicted and sentenced for imprisonment for life, he will have to undergo imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of his natural life subject to the power to commute or remit the sentence which is vested under the Criminal Procedure Code in the appropriate Government and in the President of India and the Governor under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution of india respectively.

5. Now, when we go to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the only two provisions relevant are Sections 432 and 433. These provisions appear under the heading 'Suspension remission and commutation of sentences'. Under Section 432(1) there is power in the appropriate Government in the case of any person, who has been sentenced to punishment for an offence, to suspend the execution of his sentence or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced without conditions or upon any condition which the person sentenced accepts. Under sub-section (2) it is provided that whenever an application is made to the appropriate Government for the suspension or remission of a sentence, the appropriate Government may require the presiding Judge of the Court before or by which the conviction was had or confirmed to state his opinion as to whether the application should be granted or refused together with his reasons for such opinion and also to forward with the statement of such opinion a certified copy of the record of the trial or of such record thereof as exists. Section 433 of the Code provides for a power of the State Government to commute the sentence and clause (b) thereof provides that the appropriate Government may without the consent of the person sentenced commute a sentence of imprisonment for life for imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years or for fine. It may be pointed out that this provision is similar to the provision in Section 55 of the Indian Penal Code.

6. Now, in 1978, a new provision in Section 433A was enacted in the Code. It reads as follows :-

'Restriction of powers of remission or commutation in certain cases - Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 432, where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under Section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment'.

Plainly read, this section restricts the power of the appropriate Government given to it under Sections 432 and 433 of the Code. The restriction lies in the fact that the power to remit or commute shall not be so exercised as to release a person who has been sentenced to imprisonment for life on conviction for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided or where sentence of death has been commuted under Section 433 to imprisonment for life, unless he has served at least 14 years of imprisonment. The effect of Section 433A, therefore, is that even though the appropriate Government wants to exercise its powers of commuting the sentence or remitting the sentence, in the case of a life convict, the sentence which the accused must undergo is imprisonment for a minimum period of 14 years before he is released.

7. The enactment of Section 433A of thee Code was by Act 45 of 1978 passed by the Parliament. Th relevant Bill introduced for amending the Code of Criminal Procedure in clause 33 provided for this amendment and Section 433A now enacted is in identical terms the same as incorporated in the Bill. In the notes on clauses, the note with regard to clause 33 reads as follows :-

'Section 432 contains provision relating to power of the appropriate Government to suspend or remit sentences. The joint Committee on the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 1972, had suggested the insertion of a proviso to Section 57 of the Indian Penal Code to the effect that a person who has been sentenced to death and whose death sentence has been commuted into that of life imprisonment and persons who have been sentenced to life imprisonment for a capital offence should undergo actual imprisonment of 14 years in jail. Since this particular matter relates more appropriately to the Criminal Procedure Code, a new section is being inserted to cover the proviso suggested by the Joint Committee.'

It may be noted that Section 57 of the Indian Penal Code merely provided that in calculating fractions of terms of punishment, imprisonment for life should be reckoned as equivalent to imprisonment for 20 years. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in Godse's case ((1961) 1 Cri LJ 736) when Section 57 of the Indian Penal Code provided that imprisonment for life shall be reckoned as equivalent to imprisonment for 20 years, that did not have the effect of saying that transportation for life shall be deemed to be transportation for 20 years for all purposes. The scope of Section 57 was, therefore, limited and in order to achieve the object of requiring a person convicted for life to undergo minimum sentence of 14 years, instead of amending Section 57 of thee Indian Penal Code, the Parliament added a new provision in the form of SC. 433A in the Code of Criminal Procedure. As already pointed out, this new provision took away the power of the appropriate Government to either commute or remit the life sentence to a period of less than 14 years. In other words, the power to commute or remit a sentence, which is a statutory power vested in the appropriate Government, could be exercised only subject to the limitation under Section 433A.

8. Now, the question is, is there a power in the court to make a direction in a case where the accused has been sentenced to imprisonment for life, requiring the appropriate Government not to release the accused from prison unless he serves a sentence which is more than 14 years or at least 25 years of imprisonment as in Ghodake's case Unless such a power is found in some provision of law, giving such a direction would not be legal. The only power which a Court can exercise while making order of sentence is to make an order awarding such punishment as is prescribed for thee offence for which the accused has been convicted. (Secs. 28 and 29, Code of Criminal Procedure). So far as Section 302 is concerned, the power of the Court is to award a sentence of death or to award the punishment of imprisonment for life. There is no further power to regulate the duration of the imprisonment which the accused must undergo when he is sentenced to life imprisonment. If imprisonment for life has been construed as imprisonment for rest of the life, then the sentence which the accused is required to undergo will be imprisonment for the rest of his life. This is subject only to the powers of thee appropriate Government under Sections. 432 and 433 under which the appropriate Government alone can commute or remit the sentence awarded by the Court. The Parliament in its wisdom has sought to restrict that power in the case of a life sentence by the addition of a new provision in S. 433A of the Criminal Procedure Code. Prior to the enactment of Section 433A of the Codes, the appropriate Government could validly exercise its power of remission of sentence in such a way that a life convict could be released without undergoing any minimum period of sentence.

9. Now, if we consider thee real nature and effect of a direction of the kind given in Ghodake's case (1982 Cri LJ 600) (Bom) it will become clear that such a direction in effect amounts to preventing the appropriate Government from exercising its powers of remission because though under thee Code the appropriate Government could have remitted the sentence which the accused would have been required to undergo in excess of fourteen years, it cannot now do so because there will be a bar against the accused being released from jail before he undergoes a period of sentence specified in the direction given in the judgment. Any direction which will require an accused to undergo such imprisonment as will be specified by a Court, if it is move than 14 years, is bound to trench upon the powers of the Executive specifically bestowed upon it under Sections 432 and 433. If in a given case a direction is given that an accused shall not be released from jail unless he undergoes 20 years of imprisonment or, for the matter of that, anything above 14 years, such an order will amount to an embargo on the exercise of the powers under Sections 432 and 433 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Obviously the exercise of powers under Sections 432 and 433 is not subject to control by the Court and if the exercise of those powers cannot be controlled by the Court, it is difficult for us to see how the Court can pass an order specifying a particular term of imprisonment which the accused must undergo before he is released from jail, in spite of the fact that after 14 years of imprisonment he was entitled statutorily to invoke the powers of remission under Section 432(1) or the appropriate Government could suo motu exercise its powers to commute the sentence. Undoubtedly the Court would be interfering with the more powers of the Executive and what is more important, it will be transgressing the powers vested in the Court with regard to quantum of punishment.

10. It is also possible that the direction of the kind given by the earlier Division Bench in Ghodake's case is likely to interfere with the exercise of the constitutional power of the President under Art. 72 and of the Governor under Art. 161 of the Constitution of India. The nature of the direction given by the earlier Division Bench is mandatory in character, as will be clear from the following paragraph :

'It is therefore necessary that we give a direction in the present case that although we are reducing the sentence from death to life imprisonment for the offence under Section 302 read with S. 34 the Indian Penal Code, in no case the present accused should be allowed to come out of jail unless they put in a minimum of 25 years of imprisonment'. The mandatory nature of this direction was reiterated in the concluding portion of the judgment by making a clarificatory order as follows :- 'We make it clear that each of the accused will remain in jail at least for a period of 25 years notwithstanding the remissions and concessions, if any, granted to him under the relevant rules.'

If we read the first part of the direction, the direction is positive because the words used are '..... in no case the present accused should be allowed to come out of jail unless they put in a minimum of 25 years of imprisonment.' If these directions are of the widest possible amplitude, they may well impinge on the constitutional provisions of Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution of India which, as has been pointed out by the Supreme Court in Maru Ram v. Union of India, : 1980CriLJ1440 , 'are 'untouchable' and 'unapproachable' for any legislature.' (Paragraph 23) The power under Article 72 and 161 includes the power to grant pardon at any time and, as pointed out by the Supreme Court in K. M. Nanavati v. State of Bombay, : 1961CriLJ173 , 'Such a pardon after the accused person has been convicted by the Court has the effect of completely absolving him from all punishment or disqualification attaching to a conviction for a criminal offence' and 'that power is essentially vested in the head of the Executive, because the judiciary has no such 'mercy jurisdiction'' (Paragraph 21) So far as the latter part of the directions is concerned, it may be possible to argue that only the benefit of the remissions and concessions under the relevant rules is intended to be taken away, but even that is beyond the judicial power of the Court which extends only to the judicial function of sentencing the accused according to the punishment prescribed. The earlier part of thee direction is an order against the State that 'in no case' the accused should be allowed to come out of the jail before he undergoes a minimum of 25 years of imprisonment for which against there is no sanction in law. Whatever may be the effect of such directions, it cannot be denied that the accused is certainly being deprived of the benefit of remission of sentence which he might otherwise have got and he is also deprived of the opportunity to approach the appropriate authorities, namely, the appropriate Government for the exercise of powers of remission. Such a direction, in our view, also takes away the right of the accused to claim pardon or remission form the President of India and the Governor under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution of India.

11. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in Maru Ram's case, while sentencing is a judicial function, the execution of the sentence after thee Court's pronouncement is ordinarily a matter for the Executive and once a sentence has been imposed, the only ways to terminate it before the stipulated term is by action under Sections 432/433, Criminal Procedure Code, or Arts. 72/161 of the Constitution of India and no release by reduction or remission of the sentence is possible under the corpus juris in any other way. (See paragraph 23). The Supreme Court also pointed out that the question of remission is exclusively within the power of the appropriate Government. Any direction like the one made in Ghodake's case will, therefore, entrench on the powers of thee Executive and unless there is a power to do so, in our view, it will not be permissible to make such a direction while making an order of life sentence against the accused. It has to be borne in mind that an order of remission of sentence does not affect the judicial order of sentence which remains intact in spite of the order of remission. In Maru Ram's case : 1980CriLJ1440 , answering the question 'what is the jural consequence of a remission of sentence ?', thee Supreme Court observed :-

'In the first place, an order of remission does not wipe out the offence; it also does not wipe out the conviction. All that it does is to have an effect on the execution of the sentence; though ordinarily a convicted person would have to serve out the full sentence imposed by a court, he need not do so with respect to that part of the sentence which has been ordered to be remitted. An order of remission thus does not in any way interfere with the order of the court; it affects only the execution of the sentence passed by the court and frees the convicted person from his liability to undergo the full term of imprisonment inflicted by the court, though the order of conviction and sentence passed by the court still stands as it was. The power to grant remission is executive power and cannot have the effect which the order of an appellate or revisional court would have of reducing the sentence passed by the trial court and substituting in its place the reduced sentence adjudged by the appellate or revisional court. This distinction is well brought out in the following passage from Weater's 'Constitutional Law' on the effect of reprieves and pardons vis a vis the judgment passed by the court imposing punishment at p. 176. Para 134 :-

'A reprieve is a temporary suspension of the punishment fixed by law. A pardon is the remission of such punishment. Both are the exercise of executive functions and should be distinguished from the exercise of judicial power over sentences. 'The judicial power and the executive power over sentences are readily distinguishable', observed Justice Sutherland. To render a judgment is a judicial function. To carry the judgment into effect is an executive function. To cut short a sentence by an act of clemency is an exercise of executive power which abridges the enforcement of the judgment but does not alter it qua judgment.'

Though, therefore, the effect of an order of remission is to wipe out that part of the sentence of imprisonment which has not been served out and thus in practice to reduce the sentence to the period already undergone, in law the order of remission merely means that the rest of the sentence need not be undergone, leaving the order of conviction by the court and the sentence passed by it untouched.

The relevance of his juristic distinction is that remission cannot detract from the quantum or quality of sentence or its direct and side-effects except to the extent of entitling the prisoner to premature freedom if the deduction following upon the remission has that arithmetic effect.'

12. Now, though the Division Bench in Ghodake's case 1982 Cri LJ 600 (Bom) was conscious of the fact that the direction which it was giving was unprecedented, what seems to have weighed with the Division Bench was that there is nothing in law to bar such a direction. The Division Bench also referred to the fact that want of a precedent did not prevent them passing an order which is just and legal. With great respect to the learned Judges of the Division Bench, the question was not whether there was a bar to giving such a direction. The proper approach is whether there is a power in the Court to give such a direction. The power of the Court in so far as trial for offences under the Indian Penal Code is concerned is to be found, as far as the matter of punishment is concerned, in the Indian Penal Code and, as far as the other procedural aspects are concerned, in the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are no inherent powers to regulate the period for which the accused must necessarily undergo the sentence and the period will be regulated by and subject to the power of the Executive under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

13. Having considered the matter in its proper perspective, we are, therefore, of the view that there is no power in the Court to make a direction of the kind given by the Division Bench in Ghodake's case.

14. Since the Division Bench, which made the reference, has already confirmed the conviction and the limited question before us is whether while awarding life sentence, any direction of the kind given in Ghodake's case can be given and since we have pointed out the infirmity in the view taken in Ghodake's case, nothing more survives in this appeal and the appeal must stand dismissed.

15. Appeal dismissed.


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