Even as the government empowers victims to have a say in criminal cases, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said complainants could not challenge an executive decision, remitting a convict’s sentence.
A bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju said: “A complainant has no locus standi in cases where a government orders a convict’s premature release. A criminal case is between the state and accused. As a complainant you can submit a representation to the State Government against its decision.”
The bench further added: “We are dealing with a case in which an accused has suffered a conviction. A complainant can be permitted to challenge an acquittal but not the remission of a convict’s sentence.”
With its order the court dismissed the appeal of one Bhan Singh who had moved SC challenging the premature release of his brother’s murderer, Surjit Singh. The convict was set free in 2006 following a Punjab and Haryana High Court order directing the state to consider him for a premature release under its remission order.
The Punjab government had in September 2004 issued an order to release convicts who were more than 70 years and had undergone four years of life sentence imposed on them. The order was on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the installation of Shri Guru Granth Sahib. It was notified under Section 432 of criminal procedure code and Article 161 of the Indian Constitution.
Surjit had approached HC after the government did not consider his request for a premature release. However, following a judicial order the Punjab Government had released him in November 2006.
Bhan challenged Surjit’s remission order on the ground that he wasn’t more than 70 years at the time of his release. He said the documents placed before the trial court that convicted Surjit showed he was just 63 years old in 2006.
Bhan also questioned a medical board’s “unreasoned” opinion stating Surjit was more than 70 years and was, thus, entitled to the benefits of the remission order.