Life convicts cannot claim remission as a right

Delhi High Court: In a recent case a PIL was filed seeking directions for the release of all life convicts who have completed 14 years incarceration in Tihar jail. Dismissing the petition and referring to the Supreme Court decisions in Arjun Jadav v. State of West Bengal 2014 SCC OnLine SC 522 and Swamy Sahraddanada v. State of Karnataka (2008) 13 SCC 767, the Court held that remission cannot be claimed by a life convict as a right. Life imprisonment is not equal to imprisonment for 14 years/20 years and life convicts are not entitled to be released as long as there is no order of remission passed by the appropriate Government in favour of the convict.

In this case, a PIL was filed on the basis of a newspaper report regarding a Supreme Court direction that the Judicial officers should identify those prisoners who have completed half of the maximum period of imprisonment for offences they are charged with and to pass appropriate orders for the release of undertrial prisoners. It was claimed that under Section 433(b) of Cr.P.C. read with Article 161 of the Constitution, the appropriate government is empowered to commute life sentence, to 14 years. Hence, the present petition was filed seeking directions to be issued to the respondents, to either release all life convicts languishing in Tihar Jail, who have completed 14 years incarceration or to release them on bail. It is important to mention here that the matter was earlier heard by the Court on 15-10-2014 as well, wherein after hearing the petitioner in person it was opined that the petition is misconceived and the judgment was reserved.

Terming the petition as misconceived, the Court has held that if any of the life convicts consider themselves entitled to be released on bail or otherwise, they would be entitled to take appropriate steps with respect to their individual case and such applications shall be considered in accordance with law by the concerned Court/body. It was made clear that a direction for the release of all life convicts cannot be given without considering their respective orders of conviction.M. K. Balakrishnan v. State of Delhi, decided on 05-11-2014

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