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Life Imprisonment in India

Imprisonment can be defined as taking away someone freedom who has been punished by the Court of Law. A person under Imprisonment are locked up into a prison and all the rights including Article 12 and Article 32 are taken away from them, and they had to stay in the prison until their terms are over.


Imprisonment for life can be defined as, imprisonment for the rest of the natural life of convicted person in prison.

There are various Manuals which defines Life Imprisonment as definite period but without any formal remission by any appropriate government the term cannot be defined.

In the popular Abdul Azad case (1) the Supreme Court, observed that there are provisions to Life Imprisonment:

  1. A life imprisonment cannot be expired automatically after 20 years
  2. The state which has the convicted person can only remit the sentence.
  3. They cannot supersede the statutory provision of the Code.

In Zahid Hussain v. State of West Bengal(2), the Supreme Court looked after his case again and took back the earlier view of automatically life imprisonment to end after 20 years and concluded with the above provisions.

In Bishan Singh v. State of Punjab (3), the Court held that when peculiar facts and circumstances taken into regard, the case when not termed as rarest of rare case, the death penalty accused can be brought down to Imprisonment of Life.

In Md. Munna v. Union of India (4), the petitioner was found guilty of murder. He was already given a 21 years, Imprisonment for life. The petitioner claimed life imprisonment to be that of 20 years and after that remission to be considered.

It was held that Life Imprisonment is not equivalent to Imprisonment of fourteen years or twenty years and thus, no remission would be considered.

Imprisonment of life is considered as a Rigorous Punishment.


There are basically five purposes for Imprisonment of life;

  1. Punishment – Punishment is important for Criminals. Punishment can change their way of thought and they may live a good life with their family in the Society. It can also give them a sense of responsibility of their own actions.
  2. Deterrence – It is also a type of punishment which may change them into a law abiding citizen and teaches them value.
  3. Public Protection- When any person commits any serious offences like Murder or Rape, it is the duty of the Judge and the Court to put them in Prison for the protection of other people.
  4. Rehabilitation- When any offender accepts their mistake and is ready to change themselves the Judge take the decision for them to rehabilitate inside the prison.
  5. No other Choice- they have to go to the prison for committing crime and that cannot be changed.


Life Imprisonment is basically defined under Section 53 (II) which are defined in various ways in different sections.

Section 57 of Indian Penal Code defines Fractions of terms of Punishment, where Imprisonment for life is equal to Imprisonment of twenty years.

In the case of Subhash Chander v.Krishan Lal (5), held that as laid down in Section 57 that life imprisonment is equal to the imprisonment of 20 years, the transportation for life will not be deemed to 20 years. If no remission a person has to serve the life time in prison.

In the case of Swamy Shraddananda 2 v. State of Karnataka (6) was held that sentence of Life Imprisonment when awarded it does not mean for 20 years or 14 years, it means conviction for rest of life.

Section 118 deals with offences punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

Report on Punishment of Imprisonment for Life

The latest report is the 39th Report on the subject Life Imprisonment in India. Ministry of Home Affairs presented this point in the front of Law Commission of India about the Punishment of Life Imprisonment as the States wanted clarification on this topic.


Under Constitution, Life Imprisonment is defined as to be a sentence of 14 years and the culprit would be decided by as the nature of their offence and the court whom they consider to be the culprit.

In case of any serious offences like Murder, Rape etc. they can be punished with Death Penalty or Life Imprisonment. They cannot be pardoned by their punishment.

In 2012 by the Supreme Court of India and the decision was that Imprisonment is not fixed and can even extend up to 25 years. No claim can be given by the Culprit or their family, friends for the release of the Culprit.

Under section 432 and 433 of Criminal Procedure Code defines Life imprisonment in India as of 14 years which is a mere misconception. A convicted has to prove in their actions that there are changes in them and that they are ready to follow the social obligations and duties. They have to prove their betterment and then there can be any kind of relief. Failure to not following the rules and duties can extend their imprisonment lifetime.


Indian Penal Code defines 34 offences whose Punishment is Life imprisonment where there is no maximum limit of the offences. Punishment have no uniformity, it can extend from Lifetime to even 5-10 years.

Some offences that punishment are Life Imprisonment are:

  1. Section 121 A- To plan to commit a crime is an offence
  2. Section 302 – Murder
  3. Section 232 – Indian coins forfeited
  4. Section 194 – Showing False Evidence in the front of Court for procurement of Capital offence
  5. Section 255- Government coins to counterfeited
  6. Section 313 – Abortion or Miscarriage
  7. Section 314 – If someone kills a woman for Miscarriage
  8. Section 326- Damaged caused by a weapon to other person intentionally
  9. Section 130 – A prisoner try Aiding or rescue from the prison
  10. Section 364 A – Dacoity in Murder

There are many other offences which may lead to Life Imprisonment.


According to Supreme Court of India Constitutional Bench Life Imprisonment can serve two or three imprisonments for heinous crime like Murder, Rape etc., they would serve them consecutively.

The Chief Justice of India interpreted multiple Life Imprisonment prisoners to be irrational.

In one case where a Man raped a 2 year girl and then murdered her,

In Nagpur a 21 year old man first raped her 2 year niece and then killed her, the case was filed in Bombay High Court. The sentence was the first of its kind, given under Section 376A of the Indian Penal Code, under an amendment made in light of the gruesome Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi( 2012 Delhi gang rape). In the Divison Bench, Justice Bhuvan Gavai and Justice Prassana Varale confirmed the verdict of a Yavatmal sessions Court sentencing Shatrughan Masaram for death and rape of her 2 year old niece.


A. PRISON EFFECTS – There is a very bad effect of Prison on people. Basically, Prisons are for curing Criminals so that they live in particular society like normal people. Prison have different culture and way of freedom and duties. Their own taste and choices are not taken into Prison and people have to follow all the rules and regulations of the prison. Sometimes people even when enters with the mindset changes and even released from the prison.

B. CHILD PRISONERS – There are thousands of children who are sentenced imprisonment and had to spend their life, but they are educated and even taught manners which lead them to be a better person.

There are even Medical facilities for children and to take care of them all the time. They are even taught to be nurses so that they can work.

Children below the age of 18 years are not allowed with Death penalty as it is considered that they are immature and have chances of being a better person. Thus, they are sentenced with imprisonment so that they know the results of Criminal offence.

In Raju v. State of Uttar Pradesh (7) – In this case there were two boys Raju and Ashish who were goondas, they use to molest and tease people. Once they teased Defendant sister and when Defendant tried to protect he pushed both of them into the pool.  This case was under Protection of Children Act and THE JUVENILE JUSTICE ( CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN )

C. WOMEN PRISONERS – The women prisoners are treated in better way than that of Men prisoners. There is an increase in the women population in prison due to the women who do not have financial stability generally gets involved in the Drug dealing. These hampers their family and spoils their child.


The situation of the Prisons are not good in most of the Indian countries, somewhere people are misbehaved and mistreated by the police officers where some people are in some they are not even provided with Civil liberties.

The management of prisons falls exclusively under the domain of the State Government, as per the seventh schedule of the constitution. In every state, the prison is administered by the highest rank police officer that is IAS officer of that State. There are three major reasons for the worse conditions of prison overcrowding, understaffing and underfunded. These reasons lead to clashes between the inmates and authorities, not hygienic and violent clashes.

The India Report of 2015 of Prison Statistics show that

  1. Overcrowded prisons, with more than 14% of the occupancy in India.
  2. More prisoners are under trial or their cases not heard
  3. The crime rate is increasing all over the States especially in Chattisgarh



  1. A person committing serious offences like Rape or Murder, punishing them with rigorous punishment give the victim and victim family a sense of protection.
  2. Life imprisonment gives the Criminal to understand their fault and maybe change for a better way of life
  3. Prisoners are given chance to educate themselves or learn any type of work to have a better life in future
  4. Youth prisoners are helped by teaching them the wrong in their act and to show them the better path.
  5. Medical facilities are given to the prisoners to look after their Health and even cure types of addiction.
  6. Sometimes people are also released from the Prison if they show vast difference in their nature and behaviour.


  1. Life imprisonment cannot be given to a person for Capital punishment as they are not responsible for the crime.
  2. Capital punishment can be a way that to show people example.
  3. Sometimes wrongly confined people had to deal with Imprisonment


  1. 1976 CrLJ 315
  2. 2001 CrLJ 1962 SC
  3. 1983 CrLJ 973 SC
  4. 2005 Cr LJ 4124 SC
  5. 2001 Cr LJ 1825 SC
  6. 2008 13 SCC 767; AIR 2008 SC 3040

This article has been written by Anjali Tulsyan  from The ICFAI University, Dehradun


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