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Nod to release of 51 convicts

Ranchi, Feb. 7: The State Sentence Review Board today approved the release of 51 life convicts, on a day the CPI(Maoist) observed a statewide bandh on the same demand, paving the way for agitating inmates to end their stir in different jails across Jharkhand.

In a related development today, Jharkhand High Court, which initiated a suo motu PIL in relation to life convicts yesterday, sought a detailed report from the government on pending applications of convicts, who had applied for remission of their sentences.

In view of the inmates’ protest that has been going on for the past few weeks, the review board headed by chief minister Hemant Soren met today after around a year to decide the fate of over a hundred convicts, most of whom have already completed their sentences. During the six-hour-long deliberation, the board took up cases of a total of 106 prisoners.

After careful analysis, the board found that 51 life term convicts fulfiled all the requisite conditions for their early release.

“The decision was made on the basis of the reports submitted by probation officers and judicial officers concerned. The jail authorities have been directed to complete necessary formalities for an early release of these convicts,” said an official, who participated in the crucial meeting.

While probation officers inform senior officials about convicts behaviour in prisons, judicial officers advise the government on legal aspects related to remission.

Apart from the chief minister, chief secretary R.S. Sharma, home secretary N.N. Pandey and senior officials of police and prisons departments were also presents during the meeting held at Project Building.

According to rules, a lifer can seek release after serving 14 years. The remission is granted by the state government.

While convicts serving life terms in prisons across the state, including Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Palamau central jails, have been protesting for the past few weeks, seeking remission of their sentences, the CPI (Maoist) had called a 24-hour bandh today in support of their demand.

The bandh evoked mixed response. Though long-distant buses and trucks remained off roads, no major untoward incident was reported.

DGP Rajeev Kumar said necessary directions were given to all SPs to maintain strict vigil.

The rebels had also threatened to impose an indefinite bandh on the state, if the government did not take immediate step in this regard.

Earlier in the day, a division bench of Chief Justice R. Banumathi and Justice S. Chandrashekhar directed the IG (prisons) to look into the matter of remission to convicts serving life sentences in jails across the state.

The government informed the court that as many as 156 convicts serving life terms were eligible for consideration in this regard.

Additional advocate general Jai Prakash, arguing on behalf of the government, informed the court that the Sentenced Review Board had received 106 applications for remission of sentence from convicts, the advocate said.

The court ordered that the applications of the remaining 50 convicts should also be disposed of immediately. The high court will again hear the matter on March 21.