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Supreme Court directs UP govt to release murder convicts serving life imprisonment within 3 months

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The Supreme Court directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to consider cases of premature release of murder convicts, who have undergone 14 years of imprisonment and had undergone actual sentence of more than 16 years and a total sentence of more than 20 years of remission in view of policy dated August 1, 2018, issued by the Uttar Pradesh government.

A Bench comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari disposed of the petition filed by Dev Nath Singh, a convict in central jail of Varanasi, seeking direction to the Uttar Pradesh Government for premature release of prisoners, as per the policy dated August 1, 2018.

The Court gave three months time to the Uttar Pradesh Government to consider the case of premature release of prisoners and release them accordingly in view of the State Policy.

For the state of UP, Counsel Vishnu Shankar Jain appeared before two judges bench headed by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari.

For the Petitioner, Advocate Rishi Malhotra addressed the 2 Judges Bench they have withdrawn cap of 60 year old policy of the state government as the state disclosed in their counter affidavit.

Dev Nath Singh and others raised the main ground in their Criminal Writ Petition that the Uttar Pradesh Government has not premature released the prisoners who undergone more than 20 years of the total sentence awarded to them, despite the fact that they were entitled for premature release under the policy dated 1.08.2018 in view of Article 161 of Constitution.

The said writ Petition also raised the fact that several other convicts, prior had appeared before the apex court, prayed for premature release as they were entitled in view of policy dated 1.08.2018, yet their release was not considered by jail authorities.

The object of the Policy dated 1.08.2018 is to prevent overcrowding in State Prisons, and to prevent frustrations alongwith rehabilitation, as observed by the Supreme court in Writ Petitions such as W.P.(Crl) No. 155/2021 and other etc.

Certain amendments were introduced on 28.07.2021 in the policy dated 1.08.2018 by Uttar Pradesh Government, states the Writ Petitioner Dev Nath Singh in its Writ Petition.

That in the said amendment in Policy, U.P. Govt. decided to release such convicts who have attained age of 60 years or more than that, only they can be entitled to take benefit of the policy, which means that those prisoners who have already completed their undergoing sentences , even though they are entitled , they cannot be premature released in view of this amendment effected on 28.07.2021.

Dev Nath singh , in its writ petition not only challenges the arbitrary amendment dated 28.07.2021 but also urges the Supreme court to consider this petition on grounds of parity vis a vis those convicts who were released vide order dated 4.05.2021.

The factual matrix of the case is that after exercising the power under Article 161, the governor approved state policy dated 1.08.2018 for release of prisoners sentenced to life Imprisonment in Uttar Pradesh.

The then unamended policy included all male , female prisoners , former serving 14 years of actual sentence and 16 years with remission including trial period, later serving 16 years of actual sentence and 20 years with remission including trial period.

In the list of releasing premature convicts also includes prisoners suffering from medical diseases, along with prisoners whose ages ranges from 70 years and 80 years.

There were some prohibited categories such as NDPS Act, plus murders, fixed sentence by court etc, contends Dev Nath singh in the Writ Petition.

The Supreme court in its order dated 4.05.2021, while allowing the Writ Petitions of other convicts gave its findings which is mentioned below in gist :-

a. Premature Release will apply only to the convicts who are languishing in jail for offence of murder/ life sentenced under i.e. u/s 302 IPC.

b. Undergone minimum 14 years of Imprisonment and had in actual, served more than 16 years of such sentence ,which includes also total sentence of more than 20 years with remission.

c. Policy dated 1.08.2018 shall apply to persons serving life imprisonment.

The apex court relied upon judgment of 3 judges in ‘State of Haryana v. Jagdish, (2010) 4 SCC 216 and held that state must exercise power of remission while keeping in mind the benefit to be given to a convict.

It was further contended in the Writ Petition (Crl) No. 528 of 2021 that the apex court directions were repeatedly flouted by the government and hence committed contempt of the court directions, the Petitioner Dev nath singh had to prefer fresh contempt petition before this Hon’ble Court.

Upon filing of the said contempt Petition, the Uttar Pradesh Government forthwith complied with the directions issued by the apex court passed on 4.05.2021 and released 32 convicts on 16.07.2021 who had undergone more than 20 years of total sentence including actual sentence of 16 years and above.

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