The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court clarified that life sentence means imprisonment for 30 years, not the detention of a convict until his or her natural death in jail.
However, according to the Appellate Division, if any court or tribunal specifies imprisonment until death, the convict would have to remain behind bars until natural death, with no concession or benefit being granted.
A full virtual appellate bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain pronounced the verdict Tuesday.
The Appellate Division in 2017 commuted the death sentence of two convicts in a murder case to life sentence. The Supreme Court said rather than imprisonment until natural death, life sentence indicated a jail term of 30 years.
The ruling prompted confusion amongst lawyers over the length of jail term, and subsequently a review petition was filed. In the final verdict of the review, the Appellate Division clarified that life sentence indicated a 30-year prison term.
Senior lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain represented the two accused in the murder case, accompanied by lawyer Mohammad Shishir Monir. Attorney General AM Amin Uddin and Deputy Attorney General Biswajit Debnath represented the state.
While briefing the press, the Attorney General said that in its summary order, the Supreme Court (based on the majority opinion) had acknowledged that on first impression, life sentence suggests a lifetime behind bars.
"However, after analyzing various laws, sections and sub-sections, the court stipulates that it is 30 years. Analyzing the clauses will lead us to conclude that it indicates a prison term of 30 years. But if a court, tribunal or the International Crimes Tribunal sentences someone to imprisonment until death, the 30-year rule will not be applicable," he added.
Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said, "According to the law, if a life sentence is handed down, the convict must remain behind bars for 30 years. In that case, the convict will receive concessions and benefits stipulated in the law."
"But if the court specifies imprisonment until death, the convict will have to stay behind bars for the rest of his or her natural life and will not be eligible for any concessions or benefits."
On 11 April last year, the court appointed four senior lawyers as amici curiae (friends of the court) to present their legal views on the issue.
On 15 October 2003, a court sentenced the two accused. Ataur Mridha alias Ataur, and Anwar Hossain to death for murdering a businessman in Savar. Their appeal against capital punishment and the death reference were brought up in the High Court for hearing.
On 30 October 2007, the HC upheld their death sentence. Subsequently, the accused appealed against the HC judgment with the Appellate Division.
On 14 February 2017, the Appellate Division commuted the death sentence to life sentence. At the same time, the court issued a seven-point ruling, which clarified that life sentence indicates imprisonment until death. The accused then appealed for a review of the verdict.