Expressing displeasure over the ”inordinate delay” by the authorities in dealing with a murder convict’s plea for premature release, the Supreme Court has warned the Director General of Prisons of Uttar Pradesh and others of using the ”coercive arm of law” if other such instances are brought to its notice. The apex court observed that the application for premature release has remained pending since September 2019 and, as per the custody certificate issued by the senior superintendent of police of central jail, Fatehgarh, on January 5 this year, the convict has undergone a total custody of 15 years and 14 days without remission.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha observed that in view of the settled position of law laid down by the top court, such applications are required to be considered on the basis of policy as it stood on the date of the conviction. ”If a more liberalised regime has been brought into effect subsequently, this should also be considered,” the bench said in its January 13 order, adding, ”In the present case we find no reason or justification for the inordinate delay in dealing with the application of the petitioner for premature release.” The apex court asked the Director General of Prisons to take all necessary steps to ensure that the application for premature release is duly considered and disposed of within one month from the date of its order.
It said an affidavit of compliance be filed before the court by February 15.
”The Director General of Prisons and all concerned authorities are placed on notice that this court would be constrained to take recourse to the coercive arm of law if other instances indicating recalcitrance of the authorities in dealing with such applications are brought to the notice of the court,” the bench said.
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The top court was dealing with a plea filed by the petitioner seeking premature release.
It noted in its order that the petitioner was convicted in February 1984 for the offences punishable under section 302 (murder) read with section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
It also noted the application for premature release was sent to the District Magistrate, Unnao, on September 2, 2019 and forwarded to the prison headquarters by the DM on October 25 last year. The bench said the prison headquarters, on December 6 last year, directed the superintendent of district jail, Ghaziabad, to make available the updated details of the co-accused prisoners. ”The proposal has been sent to the prison headquarters for reconsideration on December 28, 2022 by the Senior Superintendent of the Central Jail, Fatehgarh,” the bench noted.
It said the counter affidavit filed on the record indicates the application has remained pending since September 2019 for well over three years and three months and this delay is ”without any reason or justification”. ”Since this court has, while taking notice of the sorry state of affairs in the matter of the release of convicts who have undergone long terms of imprisonment, issued directions to the Director General of Prisons, UP in an earlier case, we are not in these proceedings taking up the issue which is pending consideration,” it said.
The bench, which disposed of the plea, gave liberty to the counsel for the petitioner to mention the matter for revival in case of non-compliance of the direction. While hearing a separate matter on January 5, the apex court had asked the UP Director General of Prisons to file an affidavit in his personal capacity giving details about the steps taken so far to grant the benefit of remission to convicts in the state in pursuance of its earlier judgement.