UP officials have ‘scant respect’ for judicial orders: Supreme Court
On Tuesday, the bench directed that the state’s principal secretary, home department, shall remain present in the court on August 29
Uttar Pradesh government officials have “scant respect” for orders of the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court has observed, condemning a delay of almost a year by the state in complying with its direction regarding remission of some convicts serving life terms.
“Nobody is above the law,” a bench led by justice Surya Kant remarked when the state government submitted that it may not be proper to bind the governor – the constitutional authority who has to take the final call after the state’s recommendations on remission pleas – to a court-mandated deadline.
“Whosoever it may be, nobody is above the law. There are people who have been languishing for almost 30 years. Our direction was passed in May 2022 to decide applications of the petitioners before us within three months,” the bench, which also included justice Dipankar Datta, told the state’s additional advocate general, Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad.
On Tuesday, the bench directed that the state’s principal secretary, home department, shall remain present in the court on August 29 if the authorities do not decide all pending applications of premature release of the petitioners within four weeks.
The court was livid over the fact that the authorities in the Uttar Pradesh government were yet to decide pleas for premature release of several prisoners despite a direction on May 16, 2022, to take the final call within three months. In its May 2022 order, the court had taken note of the fact that all the petitioners before it had completed more than 14 years of their actual sentence without remission. They were all lodged in Central Jail, Bareilly.
At that time, the bench further noted that the remission policy of the state coupled with several directives passed by the Supreme Court obligate the state government to dispose of the remission plea of a prisoner within three months of his becoming eligible.
Of the 42 convicts who had approached the top court last year, several were released or acquitted by the Allahabad high court pending decisions on their remission pleas, and at least seven such applications for premature release were still pending before one or the other government authority in Uttar Pradesh.
“The amount of disrespect your authorities are showing, we think we will have to take some harsh steps. Your officers have scant respect for the orders of the court. That’s what is happening in your state,” the bench commented.
While Prasad conceded that the process needed to be streamlined though several positive steps had been taken by the state, the court said that the crux of the matter was that the state government had failed to comply with the May 2022 direction.
“If we look at the way you have granted remission, it’s like ‘You show me the face, I will show you the law’. Where you want to release, you do everything. And when you don’t want to do it, you don’t bother even about Supreme Court orders... Your officers are prompting us to take some harsh action,” it added.
Prasad, on his part, submitted that there are several hundreds of applications that come up for consideration every year and that the state government has formed a committee to put the process online.
“We don’t know how long you will take to do this. We did not issue the contempt notice on the last date as we thought you would come back with compliance... but your principal secretary will be the first person to remain present here if there is no compliance. We will summon your chief secretary too. Whosoever be your officers, they must comply and file proper affidavits before the next date,” retorted the bench, fixing August 29 as the next date.