Judges have no discretion to award lesser punishment to murder convict: SC

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New Delhi, March 27: The Supreme Court on Monday said that once a murder accused is convicted, then the only punishment that can be awarded to him is life imprisonment and trial court judges have no “discretion” to award lesser punishment.

“Any punishment less than the life imprisonment, as prescribed under Section 302 of IPC (Indian Penal Code), if awarded by any Court is per se illegal and without authority of law,” said the bench of Justice R.K.Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre in their judgment.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sapre said: “Indeed, there is no such discretion left with the Court in awarding the punishment except to award the punishment which is prescribed under Section 302 IPC as mentioned above.”

The court order came as it upheld the Gujarat High Court order enhancing the sentence of a murder convict – Bharatkumar Rameshchandra Barot – from 10 years – awarded by the trial court – to life imprisonment.

“We are of the considered opinion that the High Court was justified in modifying the jail sentence of 10 years awarded by the Sessions Judge and rightly enhanced it to life imprisonment,” it said.

“Indeed, we are surprised to find as to how the Sessions Judge could award 10 years’ jail sentence to the appellant for commission of offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC. It is simply unheard of.”

The court verdict came on an appeal by Barot challenging the Gujarat High Court order.

The high court had enhanced the sentenced to life imprisonment on an appeal by the Gujarat government challenging the award of 10 year sentence to Barot by the court of Additional Session Judge, Mehsana, after his conviction for murder of Dilipbhai Ratnaji in 2012.