Code of Criminal Procedure Constitution of India Criminal Law LAW EXPLAINED
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The concept of pardon is coming hand in hand with the concept of punishment from centuries in India which is as-usual in progress with the current governance system, its inspiration gets derived from the monarchs, kings, and rulers who were there to control their subjects through punishments and pardons,[1]so as we are a sovereign nation, and have a right to life as one of the supreme rights in a constitution whose protection is must maintain the value of constitution, as well as peoples our government has adopted this a concept also sometimes due to evidential circumstances government, requires to change or even postpone these harsh life taking punishments that’s why we have this option in our system so that we need not regret our decisions.

These game-changing powers which reside with article 72 and 161 of the Indian constitution provide the president and governor the power to grant pardon, to suspend, remit or commute a sentence passed by the court, along with a brief description in Code of criminal procedure (CRPC) 1973


The meaning of these terms is like this:

  • Commutation: means changing the type of punishment given to the guilty into a less harsh one.
  • Remission: means changing the quantum of a punishment without changing its nature.
  • Suspension: means to take or withdraw the sentence for the time being. It is the temporary postponement of the sentence
  • Execution: This means that the court shall cause any order to be carried into effect by issuing a warrant or taking such other steps as may be necessary.


Some of the above terms are alike due to which it is not easy to get the cent-per cent of what they try to reflect with their definition and demands a kind of differentiation between them to produce clear meaning and usage of it under the current judicial system.

Commutation and Remission of a sentence-

The term commutation under article 72 defined as changing the type of punishment from harsher to lesser under this the sentence can be easily changed as the sole purpose is just to make the punishment less harsh and there is no limitation regarding the changes made like the original sentence, for instance, if the punishment was death penalty and later it changed to life imprisonment or just remain to 50 years imprisonment then it can be done easily based on the power given under section 433 of CRPC,[2] nothing can prohibit appropriate government to enforce this commutation can be read as:

  • a sentence of death, for any other punishment provided by the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)
  • a sentence of imprisonment for life, for imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years or for fine
  • a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for simple imprisonment for any term to which that person might have been sentenced, or for fine
  • a sentence of simple imprisonment, for fine.[3]

As our law does not give preference to the death penalty and the right to life is a fundamental right of the citizens in India, this law gives us the appropriate opportunity to fulfill these provisions.

The term Remission which is defined under Section 432 of CRPC came along with a limitation to make the changes in the mode of a punishment without making any changes in its nature, for instance, the imprisonment for 50 years can be reduced to 30 years but the death sentence cannot be substituted with the reduced term of imprisonment. Also where a person has been sentenced to imprisonment for life the remissions earned by him during his internment in prison under the relevant remission rules have a limited scope and must be confined to the scope and ambit of the said rules and do not acquire significance until the sentence is remitted under section 432, in which case the remission would be subject to the limitation of section 433A of the Code.[4]

So the basic difference between these two terms is related to the changes like a sentence but a common point which somewhere joins these sections is Section 433A of CRPC–Restriction on powers of remission or Commutation in certain cases. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 432, where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offense for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such a person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.[5]

It imposed the restriction of 14 years which indicates that if the court has imposed the death penalty on criminal which later changes into life imprisonment of 12 years or if the court has imposed the life imprisonment of 20 years, for which the death penalty can also be there, which later further changes into the imprisonment of 10 years then it was not allowed as it was not fulfilling the restriction of serving the term for 14 years.

Along with section 433A section 55 of IPC also talks about this controversy of 14 years imprisonment, according to it if the life imprisonment is announced for the crime for which no death penalty is there and later president or governor decided to reduce its term then they were strictly bound to reduce the term for less than 14 years, for instance, if the court has awarded the life imprisonment in Dowry death and later decided to make it less harsh so the government has to reduce it for at least 14 years means at the time of commutation they cannot award new sentence for 15 or 20 years as it will cross the limit of restriction, which indicated that section 433A of CRPC and Section 55 of IPC also has a big differentiation between them which is indirectly related to the Remission and commutation.


Suspension of a sentence which is defined under Section 432 of CRPC is the postponement or stay of the order for a while by the appropriate government due to some valid reasons, for giving fair and proper justice or sometimes just without any specific reasons behind that, it is different from the terms remission and commutation as they have the power to decrease the penalty to lesser harsher one but under suspension, there is no such process of making changes in the level of penalty its role is just to make some valid delays in the timing of penalties going to imposed on criminals.

Mainly suspension gets wrongly interpreted as parole who empowers a temporary or permanent release of a prisoner before the expiry of a sentence, on the promise of good behavior but Supreme Court in a decision by the Constitution Bench in the case of Sunil Fulchand Shah v. Union of India reported in 2000 SCC (Cri.) 659, has categorically observed that parole does not amount to suspension of sentence. From this, it becomes clear that parole cannot be covered by Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code.[6]


The term execution of the sentence means imposing the penalty on the aggrieved person which is just opposite with the above all terms as remission, commutation, and suspension somewhere have the goal of reducing and avoiding the harsher sentence on another hand execution under section 368 is there to execute the penalty on the person to whom it is awarded it doesn’t have any power to make any changes in the nature or harshness of penalty which concluded as execution emphasis on the enforcement of penalty whereas all other remedies have their emphasis on the relaxation of the penalties.


These all terms are different from each other as they all have different works at their place but along with the vast differentiation among them, they also reflect various commonalities with the single goal of protecting the justice system so that innocent people’s rights cannot get infringed. The pardoning powers of executive play an equal role with the powers of the judiciary so that if the judiciary sometimes falls in traps or is not able to give appropriate decision then these powers are there to assure the proper justice which is the only objective of these words along with the judicial system.


[2]Devender Pal Singh Bhullar & Anr vs State Of Nct Of Delhi on 12 April 2013

[3]CrPC Section 433 – Power to commute sentence |

[4]Ashok Kumar Alias Golu vs Union Of India And Ors on 10 July 1991

[5]CrPC Section 433 – Power to commute sentence |

[6] Sanjay Jain Alias Nawab vs State (Home Department)Ors on 28 January 2013

This blog is written by Anjali Tripathi, Nirma University

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