Premature release from jail: SC says policy as on date of conviction applicable unless more liberal one in place

The Supreme Court has said that the policy on the premature release of a prisoner that existed on the date of conviction will be applicable unless more liberal rules come into existence later.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra made the observation, while hearing a plea of a murder convict in Uttarakhand seeking his premature release on the ground that he has undergone 24 years actual sentence and 30 years with remission.

The counsel for Uttarakhand said that after the state was carved out from erstwhile state of Uttar Pradesh on November 9, 2000, certain laws and policies operating in the undivided state including the policy for premature release, were adopted and they remained in force till the new state made its own laws.

The Uttarakhand state policy (for sentence/pardon/premature release of convicted prisoners with life imprisonment by court) was formulated on November 29, 2022, he said.

The SC bench said, “Law is very well settled. The policy existing on the date of conviction will be applicable unless a more liberalised policy comes into existence later.”

Advocate Rishi Malhotra, appearing for petitioner Rajesh Sharma, said that in the instant case the policy of Uttar Pradesh will be applicable.

The bench ordered on November 10, “Having regard to the fact that the case for premature release has still not been considered, we direct that the case of the petitioner for premature release shall be considered positively on or before November 30, 2023. Any delay in compliance with this order shall invite necessary consequences under the law.”

Disposing of the plea, the top court directed the Uttarakhand police chief to file an affidavit and submit it before the registrar of the court after the case (for premature release) has been considered, failing which the proceedings shall be revived before this Court.

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The bench noted in its order that Sharma and four other co-accused were convicted by the Sessions Judge on May 9, 2002 for various offences including section 302 of IPC and section 25 of the Arms Act. They were awarded death sentences.

“The High Court by its judgement August 5, 2004 upheld the conviction, but commuted the sentence of death into imprisonment for life. The conviction has attained finality. The petitioner has undergone twenty-four years’ of actual sentence and claims to have undergone thirty years together with remission. The petitioner seeks premature release,” the bench noted.

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