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Validity Of Remission Policy Allowing Premature Release Of Life Convicts Aged Above 75: SC Refers Matter To Constitution Bench [Read Order]

17 July 2020 12:51 PM GMT
Validity Of  Remission Policy Allowing Premature Release Of Life Convicts Aged Above 75: SC Refers Matter To Constitution Bench [Read Order]

A three judge bench headed by Justice UU Lalit has referred to a larger bench an important legal issue about the validity of Haryana Government's policy allowing premature release of life convicts aged above 75 which overrides Section 433A of Code of Criminal Procedure.

"Whether in exercise of power conferred under Article 161 of the Constitution a policy can be framed, whereunder certain norms or postulates are laid down, on the satisfaction of which the benefit of remission can thereafter be granted by the Executive without placing the facts or material with respect to any of the cases before the Governor and whether such exercise can override the requirements under Section 433-A of the Code?" , the bench, also comprising of Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran, framed this question for consideration of the larger bench.

The court was considering a case of a murder convict (sentenced to life imprisonment) who was released after completing 8 years of actual sentence invoking a remission policy framed by the State. Earlier, the court had issued notice to the State of Haryana asking it to explain its policy which conferred the benefit of remission on convicts who stood convicted for life sentence and are above the age of 75 years (in case of male convicts) and have completed 8 years of actual sentence. It had noted that the policy appears to be in conflict with Section 433A CrPC, which stipulates that a convict shall not be released from jail unless he had served at least 14 years of the imprisonment, if he has been sentenced to life for an offence that entails maximum of death sentence or in cases where capital punishment has been commuted.

Before the bench, the Addl. Advocate General, who appeared for the State, conceded that, no individual facts or material pertaining to any of the cases were placed before the Governor and that the benefit in each of the cases was conferred by the Executive itself in terms of the Policy. To contend that the exercise of laying down the norms by a policy was correct and that the appellant in this case was rightly granted remission; the observations made in a Constitution Bench decision in Maru Ram v. Union of India (1989) 1 SCC 204 were relied on.In Maru Ram, the Court had held that no separate order for each individual case would be necessary but a general order must be clear enough to identify the group of cases and indicate the application of mind to the whole group,

While considering the instant case, the bench, noted that some subsequent three judge bench judgments of the Apex Court [Swaran Singh vs. State of U.P. (1998) 4 SCC 75 and Epuru Sudhakar vs. Govt. of A.P. (2006) 8 SCC 161] have emphasized that the power of remission must be exercised depending upon the facts and circumstances of the concerned case and based on facts and materials of the case.

"The modalities adopted in the present matter, however, unmistakably, show that the individual facts and circumstances of the case were not even placed before the Governor. The basic aspects viz., the manner in which the crime was committed, the impact of the crime on the Society and the seriousness of the crime got completely suppressed and relegated in the background under the norms laid down in the policy and it was then left to the Executive to see whether any individual case came within the parameters laid down by the policy. The basic facts and circumstances of the case were not even looked into. The correctness and propriety of such exercise is the matter in issue."

Given the observations made in Maru Ram were by the Constitution bench, the bench said that the present matter would be required to be placed before a larger Bench.

Case no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1003 OF 2017
Coram: Justices UU Lalit, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran
Counsel: Adv Shikhil Suri, AAG Amit Kumar

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