Constitution of India

Article 72 : [Title: Power of President to grant pardons, etc., and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases]

Sub Article (1) : The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence....

I notice that adjectives

Pardons, Reprieves, Respites, Remission are used for change in 'Punishment'

But, suspend, remit, commute are used in case of 'Sentence'

What is the need to dissect given article between two scenarios, one for punishment and other for sentence, is there any material difference between two?

  • There are currently several votes to close as being opinion-based, but this seems like it's answerable if one knows the legal definitions of those words in India or the surrounding history and politics when India's Constitution was drafted. This does not seem to be an opinion based question. Apr 11 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


This reflects a historical divide between pardons and commutations.

A pardon (which sets aside a punishment or conviction) historically has been used when there has been a concern that the judicial system made a mistake, to clean the criminal record of people who have served their sentences and reformed themselves, in cases where someone is technically guilty but the conviction is clearly unjust for some moral reason, and in cases of political necessity such as the process of ending a paramilitary insurgency by pardoning figures so there can be a final conclusion of the conflict.

A commutation (which reduces a sentence currently being served), in contrast, is usually used when someone has been convicted of a crime and is clearly guilty of that crime, but the sentence was, in hindsight, unduly harsh for the offense, particularly given the fact that the convict has behaved in a virtuous way while serving their sentence. Also, sometimes the popular view of how severe a serious offense at the time of conviction is changes over time with changing popular norms. Commutations are also often granted when the conditions of incarceration end up being more severe than anyone could reasonably have anticipated, e.g., due to a failure to provide proper care for an inmate's illness for a prolonged period of time.

Given the tendency of lawyers and politicians to draft in a "belts and suspenders" way that doesn't worry about redundancy in how things are said, this was probably done to be sure that both prongs of pardon and commutation law were fully included in the authority granted by the Constitution of India.

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