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Report No. 135

2.17. Position of women prisoners.-

We are referring to these provisions of the Code in order to enable us to discuss certain questions concerning women prisoners. In the case of a woman prisoner, sentenced to imprisonment for life (and therefore subjected to the stringent provisions of section 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973), is it proper that the law should insist on the prisoner's undergoing minimum 14 years of imprisonment mandatorily laid down in section 433A? The non-osbstante clause in section 433A makes it clear that such minimum imprisonment operates, notwithstanding the power of the appropriate Government to suspend and remit the sentence.

We are not, at the moment, concerned with the constitutional validity of this section, which has been upheld.1 Our anxiety is about the likely effect of this drastic provision on women prisoners. It appears to us that there will be many cases in which the categorical application of this section to women prisoners 'must cause grave hardship - for example, where the woman's husband dies suddenly while she is in jail, or where a young daughter of the woman is now nearing puberty. A study of the law reports will show that in many cases2, the courts have considered it proper to recommend to Government that a sentence of life imprisonment passed for murder should be replaced by a lesser sentence.

1. Maru Ram v. Union of India, AIR 1980 SC 2147: 1980 CLJ 1440.

2. See para. 2.20, infra.

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