Articles 72 and 161
- Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution empower the President of India and the governors of states to grant pardon or suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
- Pardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
- Commutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.
- Remission: It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
- Respite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
- Reprieve: It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.
- Under Article 72, the President has the power to “grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence”.
- He can do so in all cases where the punishment or sentence is handed down by a court martial, in cases where the punishment or a sentence is for an offence under any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends, and in all cases where a death sentence is awarded.
- Article 161 grants the governor the power to “grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence”. The governor can do so for any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
- The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161. The power differs in the following two ways:
- The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
- The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is the sentence of death but pardoning power of the Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court has held that the Governor of a State can pardon prisoners even before they have served a minimum 14 years of prison sentence.
- The court held that the Governor’s power to pardon overrides a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure — Section 433A —which mandates that a prisoner’s sentence can be remitted only after 14 years of jail.
- The court clarified that the Governor could exercise his remission powers under Article 161 only on the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the chief minister.
- The court was considering the feasibility of remission policies in Haryana.