Trial courts can’t grant sentence remission: Bench

Staff Reporter

“The right is vested with Central/State Governments”

MADURAI: Trial courts are not empowered to grant or refuse remission of sentence to convicts, as the right is exclusively vested with the Central and State governments under Section 433 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices S.R. Singharavelu and T. Sudanthiram, gave the ruling while dismissing a criminal appeal filed by an Army man convicted of shooting a couple who refused to give their daughter in marriage to him.

Appellant’s counsel did not challenge the conviction, but questioned the competency of the trial court to order that the convict be imprisoned until death and that he was not entitled to any commutation or premature release.

Adverse factor

The Bench said there was no inherent or plenary power vested with District Judges to grant or refuse remission of sentences awarded by them. However, considering the gravity of the offence, the Bench suggested the Government take the agony undergone by the family of the deceased as an adverse factor while considering any remission. Speaking for the Bench, Mr. Justice Singharavelu pointed out that the Supreme Court, in Shidagouda Ningappa Ghandavar Vs. State of Karnataka (1981) had upheld the validity of Section 433 provided the Government does not reduce or commute the sentence to less than 14 years in grave crimes.

Subsequently, in a catena of decisions, the apex court held that even the High Courts could not order remission of sentence, as it would amount to usurping the statutory powers of the Government.

Taking a cue from these judgments, the Division Bench said when the courts did not have powers to remit the sentence, it would denote that they were also not empowered to refuse such a benefit. They could only direct the Government to consider its observations.

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