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Friday 3 April 2020

Delhi High Court: Are convicts granted premature release on ‘whims and fancies’ of SRB?

The Delhi High Court has demanded transparency in the process of premature release of convicts while hearing a PIL seeking fairness and impartiality in the functioning of the Sentence Review Board

Editorials

In India

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday said it appeared convicts were being granted premature release on “whims and fancies” of the Sentence Review Board (SRB) and observed “transparency” has to be ensured in the process.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Rao made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking fairness and impartiality in the functioning of SRB while dealing with the issue of premature release of convicts.

“A convict should know why he or she is not being released while another was being released,” the bench said while issuing a notice to the Delhi government and seeking its stand on the plea by social activist Amit Sahni, who is also a lawyer.

The court, during the hearing, said that it appeared pre-mature release “was being granted on the whims and fancies” of SRB and there was an “apprehension or likelihood” of bias against certain prisoners based on caste or religion, as alleged in the plea.

The petition has given suggestions on making the process fair, the court said and asked the Delhi government if it did not agree, then what alternatives can be put in place “to ensure transparency”.

Senior advocates Sanjay Jain and Hariharan, appearing for Sahni, questioned how the SRB was dealing with the issue of premature release.

They also suggested that names of convicts, who are seeking premature release, be masked with numbers so that their caste or religion is not known to the SRB and to avoid “extraneous consideration”.

The petition has alleged that premature release of poor convicts was not being done in a fair and impartial manner and as per the statutory order passed by the Lieutenant Governor in 2004.

“Right to legal representation must be also given to the convict, whose cases are placed before the SRB for the purpose of consideration for premature release. Meetings of SRB must be video-graphed to ensure transparency in the working and functioning of SRB,” it has said.

The PIL has further said that the entire material placed before SRB — police reports, reports from jail, nominal rolls, report from social welfare department and other documents — must be forwarded to the LG for taking an independent decision as to whether recommendations of the board are in pursuance to the material considered by it or the same is affected by some extraneous reasons.

Sahni, in his plea, has said he had given representation in this regard to the authorities on November 26 and sought that the suggestions were given by him be implemented.

The petition also mentioned an instance where one inmate, Sikander Singh, died in jail awaiting the decision of SRB. It said the convict had already undergone more than 28 years of incarceration and his detention beyond 25 years was illegal and uncalled for.

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