KOCHI: The High Court on Friday quashed the order issued by the LDF government in 2011 directing the premature release of 209 prisoners, including CPM workers, all of whom were convicted of murder.
A full bench comprising Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy, Justice K Abraham Mathew and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar issued the order on a batch of petitions challenging the premature release.
The government had issued the order citing there were a large number of prisoners who had served long periods of incarceration languishing in jails without being considered for their release even after achieving the intended objectives of reformation.
The government had considered the prisoners who had completed 10 years of imprisonment as of March 31, 2010. It was also found detention of prisoners in jail was getting to be expensive for the state.
While quashing the government order (GO), the Bench directed the proposal for the premature release of the 209 prisoners be examined afresh and be completed in six months.The court noted the 209 prisoners have been living as free persons in society following the government order.
The conduct of 209 persons subsequent to their release, over the last seven years and more, should also be taken into consideration by the state government or Governor while re-considering their case.The court said if no decision is taken by the functionaries under Article 161 within six months, it will be deemed there is no exercise of the power in favour of the prisoners and steps shall be taken to re-incarcerate such prisoners for serving out the remainder of their sentence.Peeyus A Kottam, counsel for a petitioner, argued as per CrPC Section 433 A, a life convict is entitled to remission only after undergoing 14 years actual imprisonment.
It was contrary to that the state government took steps to release the 209 life convicts under the shade of Article 161. It was solely due to political backing they managed to get remission and be released from jail.
During the hearing, the bench had called for the files of the state to ascertain the procedure that was followed while issuing the order.The files reveal that initially, the Home Ministry called for a proposal from the ADGP (Prisons) for the release of life convicts on the Republic Day of 2010, but it could not be completed. Later, the ministry sought proposals for the release of life convicts who had completed 10 years of incarceration and the ADGP forwarded a list of 305 prisoners. Thereafter, the state segregated the list.
The government order did not give any indication as regards the material was available before the council of ministers at the time of taking the decision.
The scrutiny of files reveals the only material available before the council of ministers was the cabinet note. There was nothing to suggest the council was informed of the particular circumstances warranting a recommendation for the premature release of a prisoner who had an adverse report from either the police authorities or the probationary officer.
The power exercised by the constitutional functionaries must take note of the effect of their decision on the family of the victims, the society as a whole and the precedent it sets for the future, held the court.