CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday sent a notice to Attorney General of India K K Venugopal in New Delhi on a petition from S Nalini, who challenged her continued detention in prison for well over 25 years in connection with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case. The notice was sent through Additional Solicitor General R Rajagopalan.The First Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose ordered notice, while passing an interim order on the petition from Nalini and posted the matter for hearing on March 19. In her petition, Nalini challenged the constitutionality of Section 435 (1) (a) of the CrPC, due to which she became ineligible for premature release.
According to Nalini, Section 435 (1) (a) mandated the State to consult the Centre to remit or commute a sentence in a case where the sentence is for an offence investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment constituted under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, or by any other agency empowered to make investigation into an offence under any Central Act.
On February 1, the Tamil Nadu government passed an order introducing a scheme for premature release of life convicts under Article 161 (power of Governor to grant pardons, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases) of the Constitution. But she was not eligible for the scheme since there was a specific clause in the order, to the effect that the cases of eligible life convicts should not come under Section 435 CrPC.
Since the offence for which Nalini was convicted was investigated by the CBI, she became ineligible for premature release under the scheme, prompting her to approach the court assailing the validity of the very same Section.“When the object of premature release was reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners and when the convicts were released only on the basis of good conduct in prison, which could be assessed only by the respective State governments, the law mandating the State to consult the Centre would be irrational,” Nalini contended.
Once convicts were confined in prison, all of them were required to be treated equally and there could not be two different yardsticks for single class of convicts. The State has not applied its mind to the fact that Section 435 would applied only when the government exercised its powers under Sections 432 (power to suspend or remit sentences) and 433 (power to commute sentence) of the CrPC, she added.