The Gujarat High Court, on Tuesday, directed the State Government to pay a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to a murder convict who was not released from prison, despite his case being eligible for remission of sentence.
“The lethargy shown by the State and its Officer has kept a person behind the bars for a period of around six months. These six months of illegal incarceration of the petitioner by State is, therefore, required to be dealt with… The relief, now Court can grant for this illegal incarceration is only the compensation,” Justice A.J. Desai observed.
The State had, in pursuance of Article 161 of the Constitution of India, decided to grant remission in sentence to different categories of convicts. There were two conditions for grant of such order – completion of 12 years of jail term and lack of any instance of having absconded in the last 10 years.
The Petitioner, Mr. Prabhatji Dhabi, who had been convicted of murder in 1997, was supposed to be released in accordance with the notification. The jail authorities had, however, ordered to contain him at the last moment on the grounds that he had jumped furlough once and had not surrendered to jail authorities.
Mr. Dhabi had now contended that the jail authorities had failed to take into consideration the fact that he had absconded much before the 10 year period. He had asserted that he has been made to spend an additional seven months behind bars “without any legal ground and for no fault” of his own.
The State, on the other hand, had submitted that remission is granted to convicts after examining their behavior and conduct in jail as well. It contended that the fact that the Petitioner had absconded in the past reflects badly on his conduct.
The Court, however, opined that the State cannot attack the Petitioner’s conduct merely through oral submissions, and observed, “When the State is considering the case of life convicts for remission and when itself decides that case of those life convicts are to be considered who have not absconded for last ten years from the date of issuance of Resolution, an officer of State Government cannot act contrary to the policy decision taken by the State.”
Thereafter, while observing that “legitimate freedom cannot be equated with money”, Justice Desai opined that compensation was the only relief that it could grant against such illegal incarceration.