Legal Fiction and Unconstitutionality behind Life Imprisonment

Whenever a serious offender is sentenced for violating laws, a great amount of public interest is attracted during the sentence of the criminal. Even, when heavy sentencing is imposed on them through long term imprisonment or death penalty not much of the change in reduction of crime rate has been observed. The true picture depicts how the deterrent theory which is still prevalent in common countries fail to achieve its objective of setting an example so that the similar type of offence is not committed henceforth. One of such exemplary punishments is of ‘Life imprisonment’. This clearly does not reflect any changes in the offence pattern, despite being one of the highest forms of punishment.
A Constitutional bench of the Apex Court has held that the life imprisonment lasts till last breath, and the remission earned by the prisoner can be claimed only if the remaining sentence is remitted by the government. A mandatory prison sentence without the certainty of being released or probation with the term which may extend up to the life time of the offender raises grave question in Indian Constitution, primarily being human dignity which has negative psychological effects associated with it as well. It is no hidden fact that how inhumane and degrading conditions are being prevailed in the prison cells which the offenders undergoing life imprisonment are subjected to, hence no purpose of being a mere severe punishment is served at its maximum.
The paper would be discussing how life imprisonment violates the Constitutional value and basic human rights like dignity and right to clean and hygiene environment and others and how alternates to life imprisonment are a more promising source of reforming the society and bringing down the crime rates among many other benefits. The paper would also provide some suggestions which can be implemented for the benefit of the prisoners and the society at large.
Keywords: Life imprisonment, Constitutionality, Reformation, Inhumane and degrading conditions, Fundamental Rights.

Accused ‘X’ Vs State of Maharashtra (Decided on April 12, 2019)

The new era of recognition of mental-illness of prisoners has commenced with this judgment. With the Supreme Court allowing commutation of Death sentence to Life imprisonment of convicts suffering from mental-illness under exceptional circumstances. Seventeen years before the cognizance of court in this matter, the petitioner has suffered long incarceration as a death row convict, which resulted severe mental-illness such Schizophrenia or Some type of Psychosis. The judgment further issued guidelines to be followed in future cases. In addition to the immediate effect this judgment might have, it future holds interesting outcome of similar cases. Moreover in a country like India where 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health issues, the apex court does directly convey it’s message regarding the importance of mental health and illnesses. Usually criminals are seen as cruel and a threat to society, however they’re humans at the end of the day who found themselves in unfortunate circumstances and couldn’t think beyond the temptation of the moment. It doesn’t call for life Time of cruelty. And in our staunch opinion, it is not unfair to victims as the person convicted is given what he deserves, death comes to all regardless of their activities and post conviction mental illnesses are due to several factors being afraid of death is just one of them Criminals are without a doubt threat to society, they’re harmful, but their activities do not exclude their families. A person who is already suffering for his deeds should not pay more for problems caused by circumstances. Even when their capital punishment is reversed, mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, PTSD last a lifetime if not treated well. Even with proper therapy the results cannot be guaranteed. Lastly The right to dignity of an accused does not dry out with the judges ink, rather it subsists well beyond the prison gates and operates until last breath. This classic judgment upholds right to dignified life, which is corner stone of our constitution.