Taking up a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of the Punjab government's circular providing remission of sentence to convicts serving life terms, particularly in cases of rape, the Punjab and Haryana high court has suggested to the state government to withdraw the circular "in view of prevailing atmosphere in the country".
Advocate HC Arora, in his petition, had challenged the state government's circular issued on August 8 last year.
When the petition came up for hearing before the division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain on Tuesday, the bench questioned the state counsel, "Can you go against law?" The court further asked that how can the state government order premature release of rape convicts even before completion of seven years of minimum sentence as per law section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.
Issuing a notice of motion to the Punjab government for submitting its reply before January 22, the bench clubbed the case with the other case in which the high court had on December 28 last year taken suo motu notice in the Patiala gangrape case, wherein a girl had killed herself after alleged police inaction and harassment.
The bench also clubbed with the case another public interest litigation, dealing with a similar subject, filed by advocate Mohinder S Nain, seeking immediate registration of FIR against rape accused and fast-track courts for such cases. The high court had issued a notice of motion to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on this petition on December 8 last year.
The bench also observed, "In fact, the petitioner had come well in time and much before the national hue and cry on the cases of rape against women started."
However, the Haryana police, in its reply filed in the court mentioned that women officers in the rank of deputy superintendent of police and inspector had been deputed in every district as nodal officers in cases of offences against women. The reply filed by K Selvaraj, additional director general of police, crime against women, informed that a women helpline number 1091 had been activated in the entire state. On December 10 last year, directions had been issued to deploy police control room vehicles exclusively manned by women cops, and 30 such PCRs had already started functioning in Haryana, he had said.
It was also submitted that two women police stations had been established in Sonepat district and a proposal for the constitution of two such more police stations at Gurgaon and Faridabad had been sent to the government. The court was also informed that the Haryana police were considering increasing strength of women from 6.5% of the force to 10%.
The cases would now come up for hearing on January 22.
93 beneficiaries of benevolence
Advocate HC Arora had got the information under the RTI Act that the Punjab government had released a total of 93 life convicts in various crimes from its jails between March 1, 2007 and April 30, 2008.
These convicts included Bakhshish Singh, who was undergoing life sentence for rape-murder at central jail in Ferozepur; and Kishan Singh, who was undergoing life sentence for murder and dowry death in Gurdaspur
Pending applications are of Ajit Singh, undergoing life sentence for rape-murder in Jalandhar; Makhan Ram, serving life term for rape-murder in Bathinda; Jagdish Kumar, a lifer for rape-murder at Nabha; and Harpreet Singh, serving life term for rape-murder at Sangrur.