Criminal Appeal Nos. 231-233 of 2009 with Nos. 225-227, 895 of 2009 and of 2015
Bench: T.S. Thakur, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Prafulla C. Pant
Facts of the Case:
The following case entails an appeal made to the Supreme Court against an order and a common judgment passed by the High Court of Madras. In this judgment, the criminal appeals filed by the appellants against their conviction and sentences of imprisonment for life were dismissed. In this case, the appellants were tried and convicted for several offences and multiple murders, thus sentenced to various varying sentences for the same. A sentence for life given was ordered to run consecutively. Thus, following the failure of criminal appeals challenging the conviction and the imposition of consecutive life terms, the appellants have lodged the present appeals to challenge the judgments and orders of the lower courts.
It is to be noted here that when there are multiple sentences awarded to the convicted of multiple charges, they can run in two ways. They may run concurrently, that is the convicted individual serves all sentences together at the same time. Or, they may run consecutively, meaning that the sentences are served one after the other.
Whether a convicted individual can be given consecutive life terms after being found guilty of a series of murders for which he was tried in a single trial?
On the issue in contention, the counsel for the appellants quoted Section 31 of the CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE that allowed sentencing for multiple sentences of imprisonment to be accrued either consecutively or concurrently, on the discretion of the judge. In furtherance of this, they further cited two cases, one being O. M. Cherian v. State of Kerala 2015 2 SCC 501, wherein the court advocated for a concurrent sentence. In the second case, Duryodhan Rout v. State of Orissa, it was held that by Section 31(2) of the CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE it was laid out that “no consecutive sentence can be imposed”. The respondents on the other hand, cited precedents in opposition to the same where the court decided for consecutive sentencing. These precedents were in clear contradiction to the once cited by the appellants.
In light of the same, the constitutional bench held that multiple sentences for imprisonment to life can be awarded for multiple offences or murders in this case, however the shall not be ordered to run consecutively. They would be superimposed over one another in order that any remission or commutation granted in one doesn’t by fact result in a remission or commutation granted for another.
In the aforementioned case, the court held that it was legitimate for the Trial Court to direct the prisoner to first undergo the term sentence and then commence serving the sentence for life. It stated that the language of Section 31 of the CrPC allowed for the same. The converse however, that is to first serve the life sentence and then the term would not be acceptable. It further regarded the Regular Bench hearing appeals to check for modification or alteration required in light of the case.