SC can fix tenure of life term in lieu of death penalty

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New Delhi, Aug 10 (UNI) The Supreme Court has ruled that in order to minimise the use of death penalty, it has the power to fix tenure of life imprisonment while substituting it for death sentence.

A bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal, G S Singhvi and Aftab Alam, while substituting life imprisonment for death sentence, has ruled that the appellant Murli Manohar Mishra alias Swami Shraddhananda shall remain in jail till death.

The apex court in its judgement noted, ''Further formalisation of a special category of sentence, though for an extremely few number of cases, shall have the great advantage of having the death penalty on the statute book but to actually use it as little as possible, really in the rarest of the rare cases. This would only be a reassertion of the Constitution bench decision in Bachan Singh case besides being in accordance with the modern trend in penology.

In light of the discussions made we are clearly of the view that there is a good and strong basis for the court to substitute a death sentence by life imprisonment or by a term in excess of 14 years and further to direct that the convict must not be released from prison for the rest of his life or for the actual term as specified in the order, as the case may be.'' Justice Aftab Alam, writing judgement for the bench, also said, ''This court can also take judicial notice of the fact that remission is allowed to life convicts in the most mechanical manner without any sociological or psychiatric appraisal of the convict and without any proper assessment as to the effect of early release of a particular convict on society.

The grant of remission is a rule and remission is denied, one may say, in the rarest of rare cases.'' Under section 433 CrPc government has the power to release a life convict on completion of 14 years in jail after taking relevant factors into account.

Swami was sentenced to death for burying alive his wife in the backyard of his house after administering some sedative to her. The death sentence was confirmed by Karnataka High Court.

The victim, Shakereh, was the ex-wife of former Indian Ambassador to Iran Akbar Khaleeli. She married the convict after her divorce from Mr Khaleeli. It was in pursuit of her desire for a male child that she dissolved her first marriage to remarry.


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