The Supreme Court on Monday said the only punishment for a murder convict can be life imprisonment or the death penalty, and that judges have no “discretion” to award any sentence less than this, Bar & Bench reported.

“Any punishment less than the life imprisonment, as prescribed under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, if awarded by any court is per se illegal and without authority of law,” the bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre said.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by a murder convict against a Gujarat High Court judgement that enhanced his punishment from the 10 years the trial court had awarded to life imprisonment.

“We are surprised to find as to how the sessions judge could award 10 years’ jail sentence to the appellant for commission of the offence of murder...” the bench said.

The court upheld Gujarat High Court’s order sending Bharatkumar Rameshchandra Barot to life imprisonment for murder. Barot, who was convicted in 2012, had argued that he was not given an adequate opportunity to defend himself when the state had appealed the sessions court’s sentence.