Apex court says showing undeserved leniency in sentencing will only cause harm to society.
Noticing that “criminals of all types are on the rise” and reformation of prisoners had not worked but only produced more crime in society, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said 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,” a majority judgment of the five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu in the Rajiv Gandhi killers’ remission case observed on Wednesday.
The apex court was dealing with the legality of a “special category of sentence” by which 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.
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.
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.
The court said remission after 14 years would only succeed in “letting loose” hardened, remorseless criminals back into society.
“Lawlessness is the order of the day… It is the hard reality that the state machinery is not able to protect or guarantee the life and liberty of the common man. Therefore, any sympathy shown will only amount to a misplaced one which the courts cannot afford to take,” the majority verdict observed.
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.