SC interim order on release of life convicts comes as relief to Punjab
The interim order of the Supreme Court permitting state governments to release life convicts on remission spells a major relief for Punjab coming at a time when the state government is struggling to defuse the situation emerging out of the ongoing fast by Sikh activist Surat Singh Khalsa.
Khalsa is on a fast in Ludhiana demanding the release of Sikh prisoners languishing in jails in Punjab beyond their minimum sentence.
Despite the growing support for the demand the Punjab government had shown its helplessness in acceding to the demand due to the ban imposed by the apex court through an interim order of July 8, 2014, restraining the premature release of all life convicts who had asked for remission.
“The ban imposed by the Supreme Court has been lifted. Majority of those whose minimum sentence is complete can be released now,” said Rajwinder Singh Bains, leading human rights advocate. The Supreme Court order, however, comes with riders. “The order states that those convicts who were investigated by central agencies like the CBI cannot be considered, which means those involved in the Beant Singh assassination and the Kandahar hijacking will not be considered as these were investigated by the CBI,” Bains said.
Lakhwinder Singh (43), Gurmit Singh (44) and Shamsher Singh (52) involved in the Beant Singh assassination case are lodged at Burail jail in Chandigarh for 19 years, serving life sentence.
“However, those convicted under TADA can be released as the investigation in such cases was done by the state police,” Bains said.
Gurdeep Singh (54) is serving life sentence in two separate cases and is lodged in Gulbarga jail, Karnataka, for 24 years. One of these cases is registered under TADA.
Lal Singh is lodged in Nabha jail for over 22 years serving life sentence under TADA for a case registered in Ahmedabad. Waryam Singh (70) has been in central jail, Bareily, for 23 years serving life sentence in a TADA case registered at Pilibhit, UP.
“The Punjab CM should write to chief ministers of these states to release these prisoners immediately. The Badal government cannot hide behind anything now,” said advocate Navkiran Singh. “Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar can now be released,” said Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, president of All India Sikh Students Federation, who, along with advocate Jaspal Singh Manjpur, had claimed that there were 120 such Sikhprisoners.
The list was, later, trimmed to 85. Bhullar lodged in the Tihar jail in New Delhi since 1995 was shifted to Amritsar last month.
In January, Punjab director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, at a press conference, had said that among the 3,600 life convicts in Punjab jails for various crimes, 182 had undergone the minimum sentence and could be considered for premature release.
He had said that only two of the 120 people listed had completed their minimum sentence and could be considered for release. Punjab’s advocate general Ashok Aggarwal said commenting on it would not be appropriate till a copy of the judgment was available.
The fresh Supreme Court order is based on petitions filed by various states, including Punjab.