Have uniformity, do not involve politics in remission cases: SC to UP govt

Updated on Mar 15, 2022 06:10 AM IST

A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and AS Oka pointed out that the bench has frequently come across cases where contradictory stands are taken by state government functionaries in similar cases.

The court was hearing a petition by a life convict incarcerated for 19 years in a murder case without being considered for a premature release or remission.
The court was hearing a petition by a life convict incarcerated for 19 years in a murder case without being considered for a premature release or remission.
By, New Delhi

Invoking political discretion to benefit only a few will invite problems for the state, the Supreme Court cautioned the Uttar Pradesh government on Monday, commenting on the absence of uniform guidelines in releasing life convicts on remission.

A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and AS Oka pointed out that the bench has frequently come across cases where contradictory stands are taken by state government functionaries in similar cases.

“We are sorry to say that we are coming across cases specifically from your state where no yardsticks are followed by your government. Somebody goes out after nine years while others are incarcerated for more than 20 years. In some cases, you argue that we cannot release before 60 years and in some others, you release them in their 40s. This cannot be done,” the bench told senior advocate VK Shukla, who was appearing for Uttar Pradesh.

The court was hearing a petition by a life convict incarcerated for 19 years in a murder case without being considered for a premature release or remission. While the concerned superintendent of police and the district magistrate gave favourable opinions on the convict’s release on remission, the competent authority in the state government rejected the plea early last year.

The convict challenged the rejection before the court while also arguing that the sentences of other convicts in the case have already been remitted.

On Monday, the state government’s counsel sought some more time to file a response in justification of the rejection order, but the bench was livid over the manner in which final decisions were taken by the state government in these matters.

“There is no uniformity. Follow one standard…And those standards must be followed in all cases irrespective of other considerations. If you infuse political discretion and wisdom in individual cases, you will be in trouble,” the bench told the counsel.

It stressed that there are cases where all the officers from the prison, police and the district concerned give positive reports but the state government functionaries turn down the plea for remission. “You cannot just reject it…you must have some cogent reasons to overturn what your officers say,” the bench said.

It asked Shukla to communicate the court’s views to the competent authorities in the state government. “Please, look into this. If you don’t want us to take a call, you take a call,” remarked the court, adjourning the case by two weeks.

Shukla assured the bench that he would draw the attention of the authorities towards the issues flagged by the court.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, a state government is empowered to grant remission of sentence to a prisoner after he has undergone 14 years of imprisonment.

This is not the first time the Uttar Pradesh government has faced scathing remarks from the top court over its premature release policy. In November last year, another bench in the Supreme Court had directed the state to consider the remission plea of 113 life convicts under the August 2018 policy and not the amended 2021 notification, which disallowed premature release for those below the age of 60.

The bench, headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, was of the view that the idea of punishment should be reformative. “We do not want to punish persons. They must be reformed and sent back to society. Any policy must consider this aspect of reformation in it,” the bench said then.

Last month, the top court came across yet another case involving the 2021 remission policy.

On February 9, the bench led by justice Kaul issued another order, directing the Uttar Pradesh government to process the remission pleas of 4127 life convicts who have spent over 14 years in jail. The court fixed four months as outer limit for processing the remission plea and a further six months to decide on the same.

Another bench, led by justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, is also seized of a batch of cases relating to the remission policy of the state where the government has conceded reviewing its policy.

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