Read Order: ROHAN DHUNGAT AND ORS V. STATE OF GOA AND Ors 

Mansimran Kaur

Goa, August 5, 2022: The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has held that no relief of premature release was due to the petitioners-convicts because the petitioners, as on the date of consideration of their cases by the Sentence Review Board, had not completed 14 years of actual imprisonment, which is the mandatory minimum in terms of Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Division Bench of Justice M.S. Sonak and Justice R.N. Laddha dismissed the petition preferred by the petitioners and upon due consideration of provisions in Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Goa Prisons Rules, 2006, inferred  that the period of remission and the period spent on parole cannot be counted for determining the 14 years of actual imprisonment.

The petitioners, the convicts sentenced to life imprisonment, were questioning the State Government’s order dated May 10, 2021 wherein their premature release was declined.  

The Court placed reliance on the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Laxman Naskar vs Union of India & Ors wherein the Top Court held that the authorities who are called upon to consider the issue of premature release of a convict must consider the  factors such as whether the offense affects the society at large, the probability of the crime being repeated,  the potential of the convict to commit a crime in the future,  if any fruitful purpose is being served by keeping the convict in prison and the socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family. 

The Bench was of the considered view that neither the Sentence Review Board nor the Presiding Officer of the convicting Court considered the above aspects cumulatively. Only some of these factors appear to have been evaluated by the Sentence Review Board and the Presiding Officer of the Convicting Court but not all such relevant aspects, the Court noted. 

The Court opined that in the present case it did not appear that the  State Government went by the law laid down by the Court’s Full Bench that the opinion of the Presiding Officer of the convicting Court was absolutely binding on it. Based upon the same, the State Government failed to apply its independent mind to the issue of premature release or otherwise of the petitioners. The Court it found it difficult to approve the recommendations made by the Sentence Review Board recommending the premature release of the petitioners. 

It was further noted by the Court that the crucial aspect in the matter at hand was whether the periods spent on parole and remission can be counted towards the actual imprisonment undergone by the four Petitioners. If it is held that such periods are liable to be counted, then perhaps the four petitioners can be said to have served at least 14 years of imprisonment. However, if these periods are to be excluded, then the petitioners are yet to serve at least 14 years of imprisonment, the Court stated. 

In respect of the same, the Court noted, “…upon due consideration of provisions in Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Goa Prisons Rules, 2006, it is inferred  that the period of remission and the period spent on parole cannot be counted for determining the 14 years of actual imprisonment.”

Thus, in the present  case,  if the period of remission and the periods spent by the petitioners on parole were  excluded from consideration, then there was no dispute whatsoever that the petitioners had not completed 14 years of actual imprisonment on the date when the Sentence Review Board recommended their premature release and the same is a is the mandatory minimum in terms of Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Court observed.  Reliance was also placed on the cases namely, State of Haryana and others Vs Raj Kumar alias Bittu and  State of Haryana Vs Nauratta Singh and others, 

 In light of the observations stated above, the petitions were dismissed. 

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