The Supreme Court has questioned the Haryana government over a policy of granting remission to life-term convicts aged 75 years or above, saying it appeared to be in “conflict” with a provision of law.
The apex court has directed the state government to respond within two weeks on whether such a policy, which the court said appeared running counter to section 433-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), could be framed under Article 161 of the Constitution.
While Article 161 of the Constitution deals with the power of governors to grand pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases, section 433-A of the CrPC relates to restriction on these powers in certain cases.
Section 433-A of the CrPC also says that a convict shall not be released from jail unless he had served at least 14 years of the imprisonment, if he has been sentenced to life for an offence that entails maximum of death sentence or in cases where capital punishment has been commuted.
The issue came up before a bench of Justices U U Lalit and Dinesh Maheshwari which was hearing an appeal in a criminal case, The bench was informed about a policy which stated that on the occasion of August 15, 2019, the Governor of Haryana had granted special remission to certain prisoners who were undergoing sentence.
As per the policy, special remission could be granted to those, including male convicts of 75 years or above who were sentenced for life and have completed eight years of the actual sentence.
“In terms of the aforesaid policy, those convicts who stood convicted for life sentence and are above the age of 75 years (in case of male convicts) and have completed 8 years of actual sentence, are entitled to be conferred the benefit of remission,” the bench noted in its May 8 order.
“Prima facie, the aforesaid policy appears to be in conflict with Section 433-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973,” the bench said.
“Whether a policy could be framed under Article 161 of the Constitution of India, which would run counter to the mandate of Section 433A CrPC, and whether all individual cases in which benefit was granted in respect of the aforesaid policy were placed before the Governor of the state and whether facts of individual cases were considered by the authority before granting benefit of remission,” the bench asked.
It issued notice to the state government on these questions and directed it to file a response within two weeks.
The top court has listed the matter for further consideration on July 6.
As per the policy placed before the apex court, remission would not be granted to those prisoners who have been sentenced to death and their sentences have been commuted to life term.