New Delhi, October 3: The length of a prison sentence or the gravity of the crime cannot be the sole basis for denying a convict premature release from jail, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.

A three-judge Bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy said the proclivity to commit a crime upon release “must be based on antecedents as well as the conduct of the prisoner while in jail, and not merely on his age or apprehensions of the victims and witnesses”.

In a judgment on September 30, Justice Kant wrote: “Society has a right to lead a peaceful and fearless life, without free-roaming criminals creating havoc in the lives of ordinary peace-loving citizens. But equally strong is the foundation of reformative theory which propounds that a civilised society cannot be achieved only through punitive attitudes and vindictiveness”, The Hindu reported.

The court said reformative justice should not merely focus on public harmony, but should foster brotherhood and mutual acceptability. First-time offenders should especially be given a second chance at life. “First -time offenders ought to be liberally accorded a chance to repent their past and look forward to a bright future”, the court observed.

The judgment came in a plea made by two prisoners who gave been incarcerated for a botched-up kidnapping for ransom case in Uttar Pradesh. They are in their early middle age with a record of good conduct in jail.

Ordering their release and making it clear their freedom would continue as long as they behaved well, the court reasoned that their “action of kidnapping was nothing but a fanciful attempt to procure easy money, for which they have learnt a painful life lesson”.

Justice Kant said their case ought to be viewed through a “prism of positivity”.

With age still on their side, the court said they could “retain the ability to reintegrate with society and can spend many years leading a peaceful, disciplined, and normal human life”.

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