A bench of P Sathasivam and J S Khehar said that life imprisonment means imprisonment for whole life and only the President and the Governors can remit the sentence and allow the convict to be released.
The bench, however, said that in those cases the government should take into account the gravity of offence while remitting the sentence.
"This court, in a series of decisions has held that life imprisonment means imprisonment for whole of life subject to the remission power granted under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution," the court said.
The court passed the order on a plea of a convict, who was awarded death sentence by trial court but was commuted into life imprisonment by Gauhati High Court, seeking direction to release him on the ground that he spent 14 years behind the bars. He was convicted in the rape-cum-murder case of a 22-year-old girl in 2000.
Advocate Parmanand Katara, appearing for the convict, pleaded that incarceration of 14 years should be held sufficient for a life convict and he should be entitled to be
released after that.
The court, however, refused to give credence to his arguments and dismissed the plea saying that it is for the government to decide on remitting the sentence.
"As stated earlier, the case on hand relates to commuting the sentence of death into imprisonment for life and we have already preserved the right of the executive for ordering remission taking note of the gravity of the offence," the bench said.
"It is also relevant to point out that when death sentence is commuted to imprisonment for life by the Appellate Court, the concerned government is permitted to exercise its executive power of remission cautiously, taking note of the gravity of the offence," it said.