Judge Made Law: Fixed Term Sentences

It was contended before the SC, in Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P., [Criminal Appeal Nos. 1531-1533 of 2015] that in respect of an offence under Section 302 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 life is the minimum and the maximum is the death sentence and therefore the Court has a choice between the two and is not entitled to follow any other path, for that would be violative of the sanctity of Article 21 of the Constitution which clearly stipulates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Imposition of sentence for a fixed term is contrary to the procedure established by law and hence, impermissible. When the IPC provides for only two punishments, i.e., imprisonment for life or death, the Court by Judge-Made Law cannot introduce a third category of punishment.

The SC repelled the submission: “There are many an authority to support that there are imposition of fixed term sentences to curtail the power of remission and scuttle the application of the convict for consideration of remission. It is because in a particular fact situation, it becomes a penological necessity which is permissible within the concept of maximum and the minimum. The Court when dealing with an appeal for enhancement of sentence from imprisonment of life to death, can definitely say that the convict shall suffer actual incarceration for a specific period. It is within the domain of judiciary and such an interpretation is permissible. Be it noted, the Court cannot grant a lesser punishment than the minimum but can impose a punishment which is lesser than the maximum. It is within the domain of sentencing and constitutionally permissible”.

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