The Supreme Court has observed that the Constitutional Court can award fixed-term life sentence without remission even in cases where death sentence was not imposed and even if the case did not fall within the category of ‘rarest of rare’ case, to warrant death penalty.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed that “Hence, we have no manner of doubt that even in a case where capital punishment is not imposed or is not proposed, the Constitutional Courts can always exercise the power of imposing a modified or fixed- term sentence by directing that a life sentence, as contemplated by “secondly” in Section 53 of the IPC, shall be of a fixed period of more than fourteen years, for example, of twenty years, thirty years and so on. The fixed punishment cannot be for a period less than 14 years in view of the mandate of Section 433A of Cr.P.C.”

Advocate Shekhar G Devasa appeared for the appellant and Advocate Shubhranshu Padhi appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the appellant- a cab driver was convicted for the rape and murder of an IT employee in Bengaluru, while taking her home from her office in the middle of the night. The Trial Court had directed the appellant to undergo imprisonment for the rest of his life.

The Apex Court noted that as per a settled position of law, when an offender was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life, the incarceration could continue till the end of the life of the accused. However, it was subject to a grant of remission under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC).

Further, the Apex Court noted while referring to the decision of this Court in the case of Union of India v. V. Sriharan alias Murugan & Ors. 2016 (7) SCC 1 observed that “...when a Constitutional Court finds that though a case is not falling in the category of ‘rarest of the rare’ case, considering the gravity and nature of the offence and all other relevant factors, it can always impose a fixed­term sentence so that the benefit of statutory remission, etc. is not available to the accused. The majority view in the case of V. Sriharan cannot be construed to mean that such a power cannot be exercised by the Constitutional Courts unless the question is of commuting the death sentence.”

The convict pleaded that he was only 22 years old at the time of the offence and no criminal antecedents. However, the Court was of firm view that the convict deserved no leniency.

“The Court, while considering the possibility of reformation of the accused, must note that showing undue leniency in such a brutal case will adversely affect the public confidence in the efficacy of the legal system. The Court must consider the rights of the victim as well.” the Apex Court said.

The Court further said that this was the one case where a Constitutional Court should exercise the power of imposing a special category of modified punishment.

Therefore, the Court ordered “...we are of the opinion that this is a case where a fixed­term sentence for a period of thirty years must be imposed...We direct that the appellant shall undergo imprisonment for life. We also direct that the appellant shall be released only after he completes thirty years of actual sentence.”

Accordingly, the appeal was partly allowed.

Cause Title- Shiva Kumar @ Shiva @ Shivamurthy v. State of Karnataka

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