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SC leash on governor pardon

New Delhi, Dec. 9: The Supreme Court has ruled that a governor does not have the power to remit sentences of convicts serving terms in jails in the state if the prisoners have been convicted by courts outside that state.

The constitutional question on a governor’s power to pardon convicts was brought before the apex court by the Andhra Pradesh government, which had challenged an order of the state high court.

The high court had said the “general remission” of sentence granted by the governor to convicts in different categories was also valid for two persons who were serving their sentence in Andhra jails for offences committed in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The cases of the two prisoners — S. Appala Swamy and Rajender — were brought before the high court by the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee. The rights group had contended that the remission of sentence to various categories of convicts was also applicable to these two, who had been convicted by courts in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for murder.

The state government, appealing against the high court decision, contended that the “general remission” of sentence granted to all prisoners could not be applicable to these two prisoners who were convicted by courts outside the state. Therefore, the high court could not order “extension of the remission” to benefit the two.

Although it upheld the constitutional validity of a governor’s power to pardon convicts, the apex court division bench of Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Pasayat set aside the high court’s verdict. The bench held that the “power to grant remission by a governor under Article 161 of the Constitution could not extend to those prisoners who were convicted by courts not within the jurisdiction of the state”.

“Governors act on the advice of the council of ministers headed by the chief minister of the state,” the judges said. They added that it was “inconceivable that the council of ministers of the state of Andhra Pradesh can render any appropriate advice in respect of accused persons convicted by courts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra or that it would be competent to do so”.

The bench said if the respective states also had through a governor’s remission order issued a general remission, the convicts could have been set free.

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