Punjab Vs. Babu Singh  INSC 102 (16 April 1991)
L.M. (J) Sharma, L.M. (J) Verma, Jagdish Saran (J)
1991 SCR (2) 421 1991 SCC (3) 18 JT 1991 (2) 347 1991 SCALE (1)798
of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Section 433A-Life convict-Premature release
of-Whether permissible-Mercy Petition pending-High Court releasing convict on
bail- Validity of order.
application for pre-mature release, made by the respondent, who was undergoing
sentence of life imprisonment and had served a period of eleven and a half
years the High Court directed that the respondent's mercy petition pending
before the Governor, should be decided within three months.
this was not done, the High Court directed his release on bail, observing that
if his mercy petition was dismissed he would have to surrender. Against this
decision the State filed an appeal before this Court.
the appeal, this Court,
The High Court has not taken into consideration the provisions of Section 433A
of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 while passing the order for the
respondent's release on bail. The judicial proceeding dealing with the
conviction and sentence of the accused had been earlier concluded, and the
order was passed while finally disposing of the writ petition alleging delay in
disposal of the mercy petition. Thus, no case is now pending before the court.
order for the respondent's release on bail has not therefore, been passed as an
interim measure pending the decision of a case before the Court. In such a
situation the provisions of Section 433A are attracted. The words "such
person shall not be released from prison" are wide in their application
and cannot be restricted only to case where the person has been released finally.
judgment in question is set aside and the case remitted to the High Court for
reconsideration of writ petition confined to its limited scope.
APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 294 of 1991.
From the Judgment and Order dated 10.4.1990 of the Punjab & Haryana High
Court in Crl. Misc. No. 3635 of 1989.
for the Appellant.
Chahar and Ashok Mathur for the Respondent.
following Order of the Court was delivered We have heard the learned counsel
for the parties. The delay in filing the special leave petition is condoned and
leave is granted.
respondent who was undergoing sentence of life imprisonment, had served a
period of eleven and an half years when he made an application for pre-mature
The Punjab and Haryana High Court by the
impugned order issued a direction to release the respondent on bail, observing
further that if his mercy petition, which was pending, is dismissed, he will
have to surrender.
High Court has not taken into consideration the provisions of Section 433A of
the Criminal Procedure Code while passing the order. A week back we have
allowed a criminal appeal against a judgment of the Punjab & Haryana High
Court in another case directing pre-mature release on account of good conduct
of the respondent in jail serving a life sentence although he had actually been
in jail for a period of nine years only. We set aside the order as the
provisions under Section 433A had not been taken into consideration, and
remitted the matter to the High Court for reconsideration in accordance with
the provisions of Jail Manual. The learned counsel for the respondent in the
present appeal attempted to distinguish the case on the ground that here the
respondent has been only enlarged on bail and has not been finally released. We
do not think that Section 433A, which is quoted below, is inapplicable in the
on powers of remission or commutation in certain cases-Notwithstanding anything
contained in Section 432, where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed
on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the
punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person
has been commuted under Section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such
person shall not be released from prison unless he had 423 served at least
fourteen years of imprisonment." (emphasis supplied) The respondent in his
writ petition before the High Court relied upon three instructions (Annexures
P-1 to P-3) in support of his claim that he is entitled to pre-mature release.
Earlier the High Court had directed the mercy petition, pending before the
Governor, to be decided within a period of three months. This was not done and
a reply was filed on behalf of the State explaining the circumstances under
which the matter remained pending. In this background the impugned order was
passed. The judicial proceeding dealing with the conviction and sentence of the
accused had been earlier concluded, and the order of his release on bail was
passed while finally disposing of the writ petition alleging delay in disposal
of the mercy petition. In other words, no case in now pending before the Court,
and it cannot be suggested that the order of the respondent's release on bail has
been passed as an interim measure pending the decision of a case before the
Court. In such a situation the provisions of Section 433A are attracted. The
words in the Section quoted above and underlined by us are wide in their
application and cannot be restricted as suggested by the learned counsel for
the respondent. We, therefore, allow the appeal, set aside the impugned
judgment and remit the case to the High Court for reconsideration of the writ
petition confined to its limited scope in accordance with law. The respondent
shall surrender without delay and only thereafter he shall be allowed to press
his application before the High Court.