Who is “Appropriate Government” empowered to suspend/remit a sentence in criminal cases?

On Thursday, The Madras High Court ruled that the State Government is empowered to remit or suspend sentences imposed on criminal convicts u/s 432 of CrPC while maintaining that certain exceptions will be applicable.

Hon’ble Justice N Anand Venkatesh passed a detailed judgment clarifying different aspects surrounding the power of remission in view of confusion that is regularly encountered by jail authorities when convicted prisoners submit leave petitions that fall under the Unions Executive power and the State’s Executive power.

According to the court, where the offender has been convicted of offences and where the State’s and Centre’s executive power comes into play, the appropriate government to approach to suspend or remit a sentence would the Central and State government.

The Court pointed out that as per Section 435(2) Cr. P.C; an order of remission or suspension passed by the State Government will not take effect unless the Centre passes a similar order.

Observations of the Court:

Hon’ble Court clarified that the government that is empowered to suspend or remit a sentence u/s 432, CrPC will depend upon if State or Centre had the executive power over offences committed by the convict. The Government that will exercise power will depend upon Schedule VII of the Constitution’s list explained to the Court.

In the lists, List I deals with the subject over which the Centre can make laws. List II deals with subjects where the State can legislate. List III deals with subjects where both State and Centre can legislate.

After perusing through various Constitutional and case laws, Justice Venkatesh noted that as pe the default position, Union’s Executive power will not extend to matters in List III or List-II except in cases where there is a Constitutional provision or If the Parliament makes a law.

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He also stated that the State’s executive powers would extend to all matters mentioned in List III and List II, except in cases limited by a Constitutional provision or by law.

Lastly, the Court dispelled that prevailing fallacy that the “appropriate government” u/s 432, CrPC, must be reckoned concerning the legislature that had passed the law. The Court noted that If such an assumption is true, then the “appropriate government” for all IPC offences would be the Centre since it is a Central law.

Case details- W.P.No.1306 of 2021

Date of Judgment- 11.3.2021

Coram- Hon’ble JUSTICE MR.N.ANAND VENKATESH

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