The Punjab government on Tuesday said that since January this year, as many as 164 cases — a majority of them pertaining to life convicts — were recommended for premature release from jail and that 91 convicts had already been released as per the policy framed in April 2013.
However, the premature release of police ‘cat’ (commando) Gurmeet Singh alias Pinki, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case, has turned the spotlight on former militant Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa’s August 31 deadline to the state government for the release of convicted ex-militants Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmit Singh and Shamsher Singh, who are in Chandigarh’s Burail Jail, serving life term in the Beant Singh assassination case.
In November-December last year, Khalsa had emerged as a new rallying figure for hardliners to press the Badal government to get the jailed militants released.
As per legal experts, a prisoner can be given the benefit of remission, but that is guided by the severity of the crime for which he has been sentenced, and also his conduct in jail.
The state government policy clearly points out that in cases of murders of elected representatives and public servants, no request for premature release will be considered before the completion of sentence undergone for 18 or 20 years. However, convicts of sexual offences, under this policy, cannot be granted any remission, special remission or pardon or any such relief and will not be released prematurely for any reason.
If the application for premature release is rejected, the convict cannot move another application for two years.
Reacting to reports about Pinki’s premature release, a government spokesperson said: “The case of convict Gurmeet Singh is covered under the policy, and action in the case has been taken as per the policy as in similarly-placed other cases of premature releases.”
According to the policy, those male adults who were convicted for “murder and have been given life imprisonment as punishment” and have completed 10 years of actual imprisonment can apply for premature release.
The recommendations of the DC, district police chief and gram panchayat concerned are sought, and if the case is recommended, it is then further processed. If any such application by the convict concerned is found to be as per the policy of premature release, the same is recommended by the home (jails) department to the governor.
The government pointed out that if a convict has maintained good conduct during the conviction period and works in the Nabha open jail, he also gets benefits of one more year in counting the total term of actual sentence. “In the case of Gurmeet Singh, he completed more than 15 years of total sentence and more than nine years of actual sentence,” the release stated.