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The Supreme Court reduces life imprisonment sentence of Army Officer to period already undergone.

Supreme Court of India


The SC on March 18, 2020 {EX­-GUNNER VIRENDER PRASAD v UNION OF INDIA & ANR.) held that Section 433­A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (“Cr.P.C.” for short) would also be applicable to a case tried for offence under Section 69 of the Army Act, 1950 and a person who has been imposed with a life sentence cannot be   released   unless   he   has   actually   served   14   years’   of imprisonment,   without   taking   into   consideration   the remissions earned by him in jail. In other words, it was held that if a person is convicted for life, unless he has actually served 14 years’ sentence, he will not be entitled to be considered for release by giving him benefit of remissions earned by him.

In the present case, it was held that the   appellant   was   posted   in   Kashmir area, at a time when the State was undergoing the threat of terrorism   at   its   peak.  It was held that the   appellant,   after   the   incident, immediately came out of the tent, surrendered himself, and gave   an   explanation   that   he   had   fired   the   rifle   under   a delusion that there was a terrorist attack. It was also held that the conduct and behaviour of the appellant in the jail, as could be seen from the Certificate issued by the Superintendent, District Jail, Dehradun, has been excellent.   It was held that the appellant has actually served   the   sentence   of   16   years   and   6   months   as   on 6.1.2020. Further held that if the benefit of remission is given to him, the period would come to 20 years and 5 months. As such, it was held that he has served the sentence for a period of more than 14 years and as such, the bar of Section 433­A Cr.P.C. would also not be applicable.

The SC while dismissing the appeal directed  that   the   appellant   be   forthwith   released   from custody as the sentence of life imprisonment was reduced to period already undergone - in view of circumstances of the present case and subsequent conduct of the accused.

In the present case, the appellant was charged under   Section   69   of   the   Army   Act   for   committing   a   civil offence of murder, contrary to Section 302 of the   Ranbir Penal Code. A Court Martial was conducted and in all 15 witnesses   including   a   Psychiatrist   was   examined.   In   the Summary General Court Martial, the appellant was found to be guilty of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment and was dismissed from service. The conviction and punishment was upheld by AFT, against which the appeal was preferred before the SC. The appeal was disposed of by the SC by reducing the life imprisonment to the period already undergone by the appellant-accused.


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