NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from the Centre and the states on whether governors could grant mass remission of sentences to convicts in apparent conflict with Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, under which a convict’s life sentence can be remitted only after he serves 14 years in jail.
The SC has ruled in many cases that a life sentence awarded by the court to a convict in heinous offences meant he was mandated to spend the rest of his life in prison. However, it had said that this mandate would not denude the state’s power under Section 433-A of the CrPC to remit the sentences after a person undergoes 14 years of imprisonment.
On many instances, acting on the advice of state governments, the concerned Governors had exercised their pardon and remission powers under Article 161 of the Constitution to grant mass remission of sentences to prisoners on special occasions like Independence Day.
When a murder convict sentenced to life imprisonment was released in 1998 after serving only eight years by the Haryana Governor in exercise of his Article 161 powers, a three-judge bench examining the validity of the decision had referred the following question to a five-judge bench.
The question was: “Whether in exercise of power conferred under Article 161 of the Constitution, a policy can be framed, where under certain norms or postulates are laid down, on the satisfaction of which the benefit of remission can thereafter be granted by the executive without placing the facts or material with respect to any of the cases before the Governor and whether such exercise can override the requirements under Section 433-A of the Code.”
As a bench of Justices Indira Banerjee, Hemant Gupta, Surya Kant, M M Sundresh and Sudhanshu Dhulia took up the issue, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the decision of the SC in this issue would have a distinct impact on the President’s remission and pardon powers under Article 72 and hence the Centre’s arguments be taken into account.
The bench said it could also affect other states and decided to issue notices to the Union and state governments, asking them to file their responses within four weeks.

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