The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to frame guidelines while considering premature release of convicts under the now-repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
The court rapped the state over passing orders arbitrarily in such cases.
Four convicts — Salim Shaikh alias Salim Kutta, Niyaz Shaikh, Shaikh Ali and Moin Qureshi — who were awarded life sentence for their role in the 1993 serial bomb blasts case under the said Act had approached the high court.
Their advocate, N.N. Gawankar, argued that they had already served 14 years in jail and their cases could be evaluated by the Home Department for “premature release”.
However, the government had recently issued them an order that they would have to have remain behind bars for at least 60 years or till they attained the 65 years of age.
Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Kamath-Pai said that 1993 blast convicts’ “act affected the national security”.
However, Justice J.N. Patel, who once presided over the 1993 blasts trial, reminded her that the convicts were not tried for “affecting national security” or waging war against the government.
He said that basing decisions on an individual’s role in offence “would bring in arbitrariness”.
Meanwhile, even if guidelines are framed now, they would not apply to the existing convicts. According to a Supreme Court judgment, the guidelines existing on the date of conviction have to be considered for a convict’s premature release.
There are two accused who facing trial under the repealed Tada — Abu Salem, who was deported from Portugal for his role in 1993 blasts, and Mustafa Dossa.
Salem cannot be given the death sentence under the extradition treaty with Portugal.
The court has now kept the matter for hearing on December 7.