Governor’s order to grant pardon to a convict of life term is not illegal

Chhattisgarh High Court: Dealing as to whether a convict who is undergoing an imprisonment of life term can be released from jail by the Hon’ble Governor of the State in exercise of powers under Article 161 of the Constitution, a bench of Prashant K. Mishra J held that order of the Governor under Article 161 of the Constitution pardoning and releasing a convict is not illegal, if order is based on relevant material.

In the instant case, the Counsel for the petitioner Vimlesh Bajpai, questioned the legality and validity of the orders of the Hon’ble Governor of the State and argued that the sentence of life imprisonment means that the convict shall remain in jail for his entire life, therefore, his release by granting remission or pardon is contrary to provisions contained in Section 433-A of CrPC. Per contra, Arun Sao, the learned Counsel for the State contended that Section 433-A CrPC is not applicable in the present case, as it is not a case of remission of sentence.

The Court relied on Maru Ram v. Union of India (1981) 1 SCC 107, and noted that “the power of clemency or pardon conferred on the Hon’ble Governor under Article 161 of the Constitution is a plenary power and is not circumscribed by any fetter imposed under CrPC. It overrides Section 433-A of the CrPC” and that “unless the exercise of power by the Governor under Article 161, is ex facie perverse or is based on a rule of thumb, the Court shall presume in favour of bonafide exercise of such power”.

The Court observed that on an application moved by the petitioner before the Hon’ble Governor, the department as well as jail authorities recommended for pardon on account of good conduct and age of the convicts, which was also approved by the Hon’ble Chief Minister and thereafter the Hon’ble Governor exercised the power under Article 161 of the Constitution. The Court concluded that it is not a case where power has been exercised in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. Accordingly, the Court upheld the legality of the orders by the Governor and dismissed the writ petition. Bharat v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2015 SCC OnLine Chh 13, decided on 10-02-2015.

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