Supreme Court: Upholding the constitutional validity of Rule 8(2)(i) of the Rajasthan Prisons (Shortening of Sentences) Rules, 2006, the bench of Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha, JJ said,
“Manifestly remission not being a matter of right, much less upon completion of 14 years of custody, but subject to rules framed in that regard, including complete denial of the same in specified circumstances, as a matter of State policy, nothing prevents the State from imposing restrictions in the manner done by Rule 8(2)(i) to consider claims for remission.”
The Court was hearing a batch of appeals filed by persons convicted under Section 302 and other provisions of the Penal Code in different Sessions trials arising from separate unconnected incidents and sentenced to imprisonment for life. They had contended that they had served more than 14 years in custody but their cases were not placed by the Jail Authorities before the State Advisory Boards for shortening of their sentences and premature release. The had hence, challenged the constitutionality of the impugned Rule for putting a fetter on consideration of their cases till they earned a minimum of four years of remission after completing 14 years of actual imprisonment excluding remission, as being contrary to Section 433A Cr.P.C.
Rajasthan High Court’s verdict
The Rules, 2006 were framed by the State Government in exercise of powers under Clause (2) & (5) of Section 59 (1) of the Prisons Act, 1894. The Rajasthan High Court held that the Rules not having been placed before the Legislature of the State as required by Section 59(2) of the Act did not acquire statutory force. Furthermore, the Rules could not have been framed contrary to Section 433A CrPC. It, hence, struck down the latter part of Rule 8(2)(i) requiring a minimum of four years remission after completion of 14 years in custody on both counts.
SC on Section 59(2) of the Prisons Act
In appeal, the Court held that that
“the plain language of Section 59(2) makes it manifest that there is no requirement for laying of the Rules before the Legislature prior to promulgation. No time limit for laying has been provided. As rightly urged, the use of words “as soon as” coupled with the absence of any consequence for not laying makes the provision directory and not mandatory.”
SC on Section 433-A CrPC
Section 433-A Cr.P.C. provides that remission or commutation shall not enable release of the convict from prison unless the person had served at least 14 years of imprisonment. It, therefore, fixes a minimum period before which remission could not be considered.
“Any rule that may provide to consider remission before 14 years would obviously be bad in view of the statutory provision contained in the Code.”
[State of Rajasthan v. Mukesh Sharma, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 572, decided on 22.04.2019]