SC: First Time Offenders Should be Dealt Liberally; Directs Release on Probation

On 30.09.2020 a Three-Judges bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising Hon’ble Justice N.V Ramana, Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant and Hon’ble Justice Hrishikesh Roy directed for release on probation of two convicts jailed for more than two decades.

The brief facts of the case: Satish vs The State of Uttar Pradesh are as follow:

Ramvir Rana and his accomplices kidnapped Mr Vishal Sarawat( the victim). He was threatened with a pistol and was coerced to write a letter to his father and make a demand of Rs. 2 crore ransom.

As the father of the victim was unable to locate his son, a missing complaint was filed by him. Meanwhile, Vicky( accused ) called the father of the victim and asked him to seek the help of Ramvir to get his son released. After a series of correspondence, the ransom was negotiated to 32 lakhs. 

The father took the ransom to Ramvir’s house on 14.07.2002. Vicky counted the ransom and assured the father that his son would be released soon. The father passed this information to the police, and Ramvir’s house was raided. The police were able to rescue the victim, and Rs 31.70 lakhs were recovered. Ramvir was arrested from the house while the other accused managed to escape. However, the other accused were arrested on 16.07.2020.

The trial court took into account testimony of various witnesses, statement of the victim, Call details, voice recordings and recovered ransom money and convicted the accused under Section 364­A IPC. Ashok and Vicky were convicted under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959 as well.

The accused challenged the order of the trial court before the High Court. The High Court agreed with the judgement of the trial court and opined that it was proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they were guilty of the offence of kidnapping for ransom. However, the conviction under Section 25 of the Arms Act was set aside by the Court.

Aggrieved by order of the High Court, the accused moved the Supreme Court.

Proceedings before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court refrained from interfering with the decision of the High Court. Still, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the respondent state directing them to furnish the details regarding petitioner’s entitlement to premature release.

The respondent state informed the Court that the Committee had declined the request of the petitioners to get a premature release.

Contentions raised by the Parties.

The counsel for the respondent-state submitted the following:-

  • In the case of Satish, his request was rejected because he had committed a heinous crime, as the age of the petitioner was around 53-54 he might commit crimes again. It was also stated that he might harm society if he is released.
  • While declining the mercy petition filed by Vicky, the state gave similar reasons. That he was only 43 years old and he might commit the same crimes again, heinous nature of crime and the apprehension of the informant.

Arguments Raised by the Petitioners:-

  • The counsel argued that while passing the order, the authorities have overlooked the fact that conduct of the petitioner was excellent during his incarceration.
  • It was also stated that the authorities did not interview the petitioners in order to ascertain if they might commit crimes in the future 
  • The long time spent behind bars by the accused was not considered while passing the order.

The Reasoning of the Court

The Court observed the fact that society has a right to lead a peaceful and fearless life, without free-roaming criminals creating havoc in the lives of ordinary peace-loving citizens. But equally strong is the foundation of the reformative theory which propounds that a civilised society cannot be achieved only through punitive attitudes and vindictiveness; and that instead of public harmony, brotherhood and mutual acceptability ought to be fostered. Thus, first-time offenders ought to be liberally accorded a chance to repent their past and look forward to a bright future.

The Court referred to UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938, where it is stated that the government can release a prisoner if it’s evident that the conduct of the prisoner was good during incarceration. If he is released from jail, then he will not harm society.

It was also noted that the respondent state has admitted that the conduct of the prisoners was satisfactory in jail and that they have a long life ahead of them.

The Court further noted the fact that during his incarceration, Vicky has completed several professional courses and his conduct shines as a bright light of hope and redemption for many other incarcerated prisoners.

While passing its judgement, the Court noted the fact the petitioners had spent more than two decades in prison.

The decision of the Court

The Court directed that the prisoner should be released on probation, and the respondent state was given the liberty to impose conditions on them while keeping in mind the petitioner’s liberty and public safety.

Case Details:-

Title: Satish vs The State of Uttar Pradesh

Case No.SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO. 7369 of 2019 

Date of order:30.09.2020

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice N.V Ramana, Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant and Hon’ble Justice Hrishikesh Roy

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