Life term means life in jail: Centre advisory to states

With life term being one of the stringent punishments being considered for crimes against women, the Centre has sent an advisory to all states to clear the air on the meaning of the term. Life imprisonment means jail term for the entire life of the convict and not just 20 years or 14 years in prison, the February 1 advisory states.

The clarification follows the prevailing confusion on the issue and also instances in which convicts, serving life imprisonment, have been freed after 14 years in jail.

Citing a Supreme Court order of November 2012, the Home Ministry has clarified that while there is a statutory provision in the CrPC empowering authorities to remit the jail sentence of a convict, it is applicable only in cases where the punishment is of a fixed term. "If the term of sentence is indefinite (as in life imprisonment), the power under Section 432 of the CrPC (remission of sentencing) can certainly be exercised but not on the basis that life imprisonment is an arbitrary or notional figure of 20 years in prison," the advisory said.

"There is a misconception that a prisoner serving a life sentence has an indefeasible right to release (after) either 14 years or 20 years' imprisonment. The prisoner has no such right. A convict undergoing life imprisonment is expected to remain in custody till the end of his life, subject to any remission granted by (the) government...," the Supreme Court had said in the 2012 order.

The Home Ministry advisory also told states to be careful while reducing sentences of convicts undergoing life imprisonment and not grant arbitrary remissions.

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