The Telegraph
Thursday , May 8 , 2014
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Panel prod prompts lifer list

Jorhat, May 7: Assam inspector-general of prisons S.K. Gogoi has asked all jails in the state to submit a list of life convicts who have completed 14 years of imprisonment.

Official sources in the home department told The Telegraph that the directive came after the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) sought details from the inspector-general about convicts undergoing life sentences in 32 jails across the state.

The AHRC directive came in the wake of a petition (case no: 1009/0/13-14) filed with the human rights body on April 1 by family members of several convicts who have spent 14 years in prison, seeking their early release.

In his letter issued on April 25, Gogoi asked jail authorities to treat his directive as “extremely urgent”. The directive stated that the list should include lifers who have completed 14 years in jail as on April 30, 2014 — including their time spent in custody before pronouncement of the sentence.

The AHRC order passed by T. Phookan, a member of the commission, stated that one Moromi Sarma and “a good number of persons”, mostly women, have jointly filed a petition with the rights body seeking the release of all life convicts who have served their terms for 14 years.

The order said the petitioners, who claimed to be family members of the lifers, were facing a lot of hardships because the main earning members of their families were lodged in jail.

The order said the commission had taken cognisance of the complaint and would accordingly decide on the matter.

The petition mentioned that the government, in earlier years, had granted remission to lifers who had completed 14 years in prison.

The petitioners also threatened to launch a fast-unto-death if their plea went unheard.

Home department sources said the Supreme Court had passed a judgment two years back stating that life sentence awarded by the courts to the convicts should mean imprisonment till death. It had imposed certain conditions to the state governments for granting remission to the lifers.

However, the country’s apex court, after taking serious note of the “misconception” of the governments on the provision of granting remittance to lifers, had put forward certain conditions before the governments in this regard.

“There is a misconception that a convict serving a life sentence has an indefeasible right to release on completion of 14 years’ RI and completing 20 years of the sentence through number of days of remittance earned by him/her.

A lifer is expected to remain in custody till the end of his/her life, subject to any remission granted by the state government under Section 432 CrPC, which, in turn, is subject to procedural checks in that section and substantive checks in 433-A CrPC,” the Supreme Court order had stated.

“Before actually exercising the power of remission under Section 432 CrPC, the appropriate government must obtain the opinion of the presiding judge of the convicting court or confirming court. Remission, therefore, can be given only on a case-by-case basis and not in a wholesale manner,” the order had said.

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