HC Can’t Modify Life Sentence To ‘Period Already Undergone’ While Upholding Conviction Of Murder: SC

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Facts

In a double murder case the accused (kalla) of the case was sent for life imprisonment by the trial court, the High Court however later as an appellate court modified it to “the period already undergone. In the verdict of the case, the trial court held that the accused will not be considered for remission without completing a period of 30 years. The High Court was of the view that the cap of 30 years is removed. The High Court was also of the view that the punishment was given in excessive nature and modified it by making the period of the sentence to be “period already undergone” i.e. 16 years and 10 months though the bench later corrected itself.

Judgement

The Supreme Court of India said that the High Court cannot convert the life sentence of a person to the period already undergone while upholding the conviction of murder. In the decision given by Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Sikri, one thing is absolutely clear. In both the FIRs there was a charge of murder under Section 302, IPC. The conviction was recorded on both the charges by the trial court which was affirmed by the High Court as well. For the offence of murder, the minimum sentence is ‘life imprisonment’. For that reason, obviously, the High Court could not have modified the sentence to the one already undergone, therefore, modification in an aforesaid manner as done by the High Court was clearly erroneous. In fact, it appears that the High Court realized this mistake and, therefore modification in an aforesaid manner as done by the High Court was clearly erroneous.

The bench also said that “In fact, it appears that the High Court realized this mistake (modification of sentence to period already undergone) and, therefore, made amends by correcting this mistake vide orders dated February 14, 2017. However, that step taken by the High Court was beyond its jurisdiction. It could have been done only in appeal. That exercise is precisely done by this Court by setting aside that part of the order.”

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