What is remission of sentence

In Union of India v. V. Sriharan @ Murugan & Ors. [(2016) 7 SCC 1 = 2015 (13) SCALE];

As far as remissions are concerned, it consists of two types. One type of remission is what is earned by a prisoner under the Prison Rules or other relevant rules based on his/her good behaviour or such other stipulations prescribed therein. The other remission is the grant of it by the appropriate Government in exercise of its power under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Therefore, in the latter case when a remission of the substantive sentence is granted under Section 432, then and then only giving credit to the earned remission can take place and not otherwise. Similarly, in the case of a life imprisonment, meaning thereby the entirety of one’s life, unless there is a commutation of such sentence for any specific period, there would be no scope to count the earned remission. In either case, it will again depend upon an answer to the second part of the first question based on the principles laid down in Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 13 SCC 767 : (2009) 3 SCC (Cri) 113

63. With that when we come to the second part of the first question which pertains to the special category of sentence to be considered in substitute of death penalty by imposing a life sentence i.e. the entirety of the life or a term of imprisonment which can be less than full life term but more than 14 years and put that category beyond application of remission which has been propounded in paras 91 and 92 of Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 13 SCC 767 : (2009) 3 SCC (Cri) 113 and has come to stay as on this date.”

Judgement by the Constitution Bench in Muthuramalingam (Supra) deals with this aspect very clearly, in the following words:

“23. Parliament, it manifests from the provisions of Section 427(2) CrPC, was fully cognizant of the anomaly that would arise if a prisoner condemned to undergo life imprisonment is directed to do so twice over. It has, therefore, carved out an exception to the general rule to clearly recognise that in the case of life sentences for two distinct offences separately tried and held proved the sentences cannot be directed to run consecutively. The provisions of Section 427(2) CrPC apart, in Ranjit Singh case [Ranjit Singh v. UT of Chandigarh, (1991) 4 SCC 304 : 1991 SCC (Cri) 965] , this Court has in terms held that since life sentence implies imprisonment for the remainder of the life of the convict, consecutive life sentences cannot be awarded as humans have only one life. That logic, in our view, must extend to Section 31 CrPC also no matter Section 31 does not in terms make a provision analogous to Section 427(2) of the Code.

The provision must, in our opinion, be so interpreted as to prevent any anomaly or irrationality. So interpreted Section 31(1) CrPC must mean that sentences awarded by the court for several offences committed by the prisoner shall run consecutively (unless the court directs otherwise) except where such sentences include imprisonment for life which can and must run concurrently. We are also inclined to hold that if more than one life sentences are awarded to the prisoner, the same would get superimposed over each other. This will imply that in case the prisoner is granted the benefit of any remission or commutation qua one such sentence, the benefit of such remission would not ipso facto extend to the other.”