The Supreme Court on Friday said there cannot be any sentence less than imprisonment for life, if an accused is convicted for murder, an offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Krishna Murari said: “There cannot be any sentence/punishment less than imprisonment for life, if an accused is convicted for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. Any punishment less than the imprisonment for life for the offence punishable under Section 302 would be contrary to Section 302 IPC.”
The bench noted that punishment for murder under Section 302 IPC shall be death or imprisonment for life and fine, therefore, minimum sentence would be imprisonment for life and fine.
The top court judgment came on an appeal by Madhya Pradesh government challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment, where the court partly allowed the appeal preferred by the respondent – accused Nandu @ Nandua and reduced the sentence from life imprisonment to the sentence already undertone while maintaining his conviction for the offences under Sections 147, 148, 323 and 302/34 of the IPC.
The top court noted that the high court passed the judgment and order reducing the sentence, the period of sentence undergone by the accused was approximately seven years and ten months. “Though the High Court has maintained the conviction of the respondent – accused for the offence under Section 302 IPC, but the High Court has reduced the sentence to already undergone, i.e., seven years and ten months, we are of the firm view that the same is impermissible and unsustainable,” it said.
It said the high court has reduced the sentence to sentence already undergone which is less than imprisonment for life, which shall be contrary to Section 302 IPC and is unsustainable. “The judgment and order passed by the high court reducing the sentence of the respondent – accused to the sentence already undergone while maintaining the conviction of the respondent – accused for the offence under Sections 147, 148, 323 and 302/34 of the IPC is hereby quashed and set aside. The judgment and order passed by the learned trial court imposing the life imprisonment is hereby restored,” said the bench.
The bench directed the accused to surrender before the court concerned within 8 weeks to undergo life imprisonment.