New Delhi, Feb. 18: The Supreme Court today upheld the power of a state government to grant remission to certain classes of prisoners on occasions such as Independence Day.
A division bench of Justices N. Santosh Hegde and B.P. Singh also upheld a state’s right to exempt a category of prisoners from being granted remission/pardon whenever a state government announced grant of remission on special occasions.
The ruling came on a petition by jailor Jai Singh, who challenged Haryana’s grant of remission to a certain class of prisoners on Independence Day in 1995.
Back then, the state had refused to grant remission to offenders convicted of rape, dowry death, abduction, terrorist crimes, narcotic crimes and the murder of a child below 14 years.
The apex court said the state can make such classifications while granting pardon to a class of convicts.
“We uphold the classification made by the state government,” the bench said.
The apex court emphasised that Parliament, through a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code, “has not excluded or denuded the power of the appropriate government (respective state governments) to restrict the grant of remission to a class of prisoners only or exclude a class of prisoners from such benefit of remission”.
“To grant or not to grant (remission) is the power vested in the appropriate government under Section 432 of the CrPC, which the said government can exercise either by granting remission to all convicts or by restricting the remission to a class of convicts,” the bench said.
The court also pointed out that by enacting Section 433A of the CrPC, Parliament restricted grant of remission only to a certain class of prisoners (such as convicts for rape, terrorism) and had not totally taken away the power of a state to pardon convicts, especially on occasions such as Independence Day.
A state government can, however, resort to “Section 432 (that) has given wide powers of suspension, remission and commutation to appropriate government, which can utilise the said power at any time with or without conditions”, the bench observed.
“Such power (to grant remission and suspend or commute sentence) can be exercised by the appropriate government either with reference to single convict or with reference to a class of convicts,” the bench said.
According to the apex court, the offences excluded from the benefit of remission have undergone “a valid classification for the purpose of making them (offences) ineligible for the grant of remission”.
Bar association post
Ravi Nath, a Supreme Court lawyer, will be the first Indian to head the Inter-Pacific Bar Association. “The IPBA is growing in relevance by addressing many significant legal issues in the Asia-Pacific region,” Nath said.