- Judgement was given in a majority judgment of the five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu observed in the Rajiv Gandhi killers’ remission case.
- They noted that “criminals of all types are on the rise” and reformation of prisoners had not worked but only produced more crime in society.
- The judiciary should show no mercy in sending a man to the gallows or to jail for life in heinous crimes.
- Any further lenience is shown in the matter of imposition of sentence, at least in respect of capital punishment or life imprisonment, it can only be said that that will only lead to further chaos and there will be no rule of law, but only anarchy will rule the country, enabling the criminals and their gangs to dictate terms
On Special sentence
- Under the Criminal Procedure Code, a life convict can apply for remission after serving 14 years of his sentence. The provision is reformative in nature.
- Whereas in “special category of sentence” constitutional courts can mandatorily send a person convicted in a heinous crime like rape, dacoity, gang-rape and terrorist crimes to imprisonment of 20 to 40 years without remission.
- This “special sentencing” for 20 to 40 years depriving prisoners of their statutory right to apply for remission was introduced in the 2008 Swami Shraddananda murder case judgment as an alternative to death penalty.
- Upholding the constitutionality of such a special sentencing, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, who wrote the majority verdict, said such harsh measures were required to tame “heartless, hardened, money-minded, lecherous, paid assassins” who preyed on the common man and the vulnerable.
- Justice Kalifulla wrote that unless there was infrastructure to provide education and induce repentance in a criminal, prolonged periods of imprisonment without remission was an effective way to keep them away from society.
Section 435 of CrPC
- The Supreme Court judgment brings under a cloud the Tamil Nadu government’s letter dated February 19, 2014, to the Centre, proposing the release of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
- Tamil Nadu had maintained that the letter was in the nature of a consultation with the Centre under Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Addressing this issue, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla said the word ‘consultation’ in Section 435 actually meant ‘concurrence’.
- In short, the court ruled that consultation with the Centre in such heinous cases should not be an “empty formality” as national interest is at stake.
- Such judicial pronouncements by courts in public interest for a prolonged period of imprisonment without remission should not be interfered with by the government.
- “A person who has deprived another person of his liberty forever and has endangered the liberty of his family has no right to ask the court to uphold his liberty. Liberty is not a one-sided concept,” Justice Kalifulla wrote.
- Besides, Justice Kalifulla observed reformation was not possible without proper deterrence and penitence
- The Centre had contended that no further mercy should be shown to the convicts in the 1991 assassination case.
- The Supreme Court had on February 20, 2014 stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release three convicts — Murugan, Santhan and Arivu — whose death sentences were commuted to life term by it on February 18.
- Later, it had also stayed the release of four other convicts — Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.