Meaning of Commutation of Sentence
- A commutation of a sentence is a reduction in sentence. It does not absolve the prisoner from a conviction completely, but, substitutes with a lesser punishment.
- For example, a death sentence may be commuted to a sentence of imprisonment for life.
Scope of Power of commutation of sentences u/s. 433
- 433 empowers the appropriate Government to commute the sentence of the convict.
- The appropriate Government can exercise the power without the consent of the convict.
- The power of commutation of sentence is exclusively vestes 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 the 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 sentences in the prescribed manner:
- Death Sentence to any other punishment under IPC;
- Imprisonment for Life to Imprisonment not exceeding 14 years or fine;
- Rigorous imprisonment to Simple Imprisonment;
- Simple Imprisonment to Fine.
‘Lifers’ convicted of Capital Offences
- 433-A places a 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 undergone 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 a prisoner who was convicted with offences having death sentence or serious offences used to 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:
- Prisoner sentenced to imprisonment for life for an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life; or
- A 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 Articles 72 & 161.
- It also not violative of Article 14 as it is based on reasonable classification.
- The Apex Court held that the Parliament enact S.433-A under the aegis of Entry 2 of List III of the Seventh Schedule r/w. Article 246.
Written by: Arvind Yadav Advocate
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