Tenure of Life Imprisonment: Over 5,000 prisoners’ fate in the balance | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 08, 2020

Tenure of Life Imprisonment: Over 5,000 prisoners’ fate in the balance

Around 5,000 prisoners, who have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, are yet to know how long they will have to serve in jails, as the Supreme Court has not delivered its verdict on the long pending review petition involving the dispute over the tenure of life imprisonment.

The dispute has been created after a bench of the SC's Appellate Division headed by the then Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha in a verdict on February 14, 2017 had ruled that life imprisonment means jail sentence until natural death of the convict.

But Ataur Mridha, a prisoner whose death sentence was commuted by the SC to life imprisonment, challenged the apex court verdict delivered by Justice Sinha-led bench through filing a review petition with the same court.

In the review petition, he said under Section 57 of the Penal Code, life sentence refers to 30 years' prison term, which becomes 22.5 years after the seven-and-a-half years' remission.

On July 11 last year, a seven-member bench of Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain concluded hearing arguments on the review petition of Mridha, and said that it will deliver its verdict any day on the matter.

The same day, the apex court bench kept the review petition as "curia advisari vult", meaning the verdict will be delivered any day.

The Appellate Division bench is yet to deliver its verdict on the review petition. Meantime, one of the seven judges of the bench has retired.

Contacted, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star on March 30 that the SC has not yet delivered its judgement on the petition relating to the dispute over the meaning and tenure of a convict's life imprisonment.

"I had argued before the Appellate Division that the life imprisonment means the imprisonment till rest of life of such a convict.

The court will decide whether it will deliver the verdict and then it will be known how long prisoners, who have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, will have to serve in jails," he said. 

Mridha's lawyer Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain told this correspondent that there are more than 5,000 prisoners in the jails across the country after being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in different cases.

But, they do not know how long they will have to serve in jails, although life sentence refers to 30 years' prison term as per law.

Even, the jail authorities are confused over this issue, as the SC has not yet delivered its verdict on the review petition, the lawyer said, adding that a convict, who is sentenced to life imprisonment by a court, is supposed to serve in jail for 22 years after the remission from 30 years' as per the law.

They will have to wait to know the duration of their sentence until the SC deliver its verdict on the review petition regarding the meaning and tenure of a convict's life imprisonment, the jurist said.

Contacted, Inspector General of Prisons Brig Gen AKM Mustafa Kamal Pasha told The Daily Star that a prisoner, who is sentenced to life imprisonment, usually has to serve in jail for 20 years after the relevant remissions from 30 years' term.

Replying to a question, he said he is not aware of the SC decision about the tenure of life imprisonment.

During the proceedings of the review petition of Mridha, the SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mahmud Hossain heard expert opinions from four amicus curiae (friends of court) -- Advocate AF Hasan Ariff, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud, Advocate Abdur Rezak Khan and Advocate AM Aminuddin -- on the issue.

Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain and Advocate Shishir Manir appeared for the petitioner while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam argued for the state.

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