Meaning of Commutation of Sentence

  • A commutation of sentences a reduction in sentence. In a commutation of sentence, a person is not absolved from a conviction completely, but, his/her punishment is substituted with a lesser punishment.
  • For example, a death sentence may be commuted to a sentence of imprisonment for life.

Scope of Power u/s. 433

  • 433 empowers the appropriate Government to commute the sentence of the convict.
  • The said power can be exercised without the consent of the convict.
  • The power of commutation of sentence is exclusively vested in the Appropriate Government and the High Court cannot direct the Govt. to exercise such power.
  • Under this section a Governor can commute a sentence of death.

Duty to Dispose of Petitions Expeditiously

  • The petitions for reprieve shall be disposed of without any unnecessary delay.
  • Delays tend to shake confidence of the general public in the working of the executive.
  • A self-imposed rule is followed by the authorities that such petitions shall be disposed of within a period of three months.

Power to Commute Sentences

The appropriate government may commute any of the following sentence in the prescribed manner:

  1. Death Sentence to any other punishment under IPC;
  2. Imprisonment for Life to Imprisonment not exceeding 14 years or fine;
  3. Rigorous imprisonment to Simple Imprisonment;
  4. Simple Imprisonment to Fine.

‘Lifers’ convicted of Capital Offences (S.433-A)


  • 433-A places restriction on powers of remission or commutation in certain cases.
  • It puts a restrain on the unbridled powers of remitting the whole or any part of the punishment provided under section 432.
  • Therefore, remission shall not be carried out in the below mentioned two categories until and unless the prisoner has under gone 14 years of actual imprisonment.
  • 433-A is not retrospective.
  • 14 years of actual imprisonment is mandatory to grant exercise powers u/s. 432 or u/s. 433.
  • The period spent on furlough would not be considered for computation under section 433-A

Need to Enact S.433-A

  • Before enacting S.433-A prisoner who were convicted with offences having death sentence or serious offences used move scots free by earning remission after undergoing some part of the sentence.
  • Taking cognizance of such utter laxity in the below mentioned two cases, the Parliament considered it prudent to enact S.433-A.

Application of S.433-A

  • 433-A applies to two categories of prisoners undergoing imprisonment for life:
  1. Prisoner sentences to imprisonment for life for an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life; or
  2. Prisoner who was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life under S.433(a)
  • The common factor binding together the two categories of ‘lifers’ is the seriousness of offence of which they are convicted.

Constitutional Validity of S.433-A

  • The section does not violate Article 72 & 161.
  • It also not violative of Article 14 as it is based on reasonable classification.
  • The Apex Court has held that S.433-A has been enacted by the Parliament under aegis of Entry 2 of List III of the Seventh Schedule r/w. Article 246.

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Written by : Arvind Yadav (Advocate)

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