Read Order: Jai Kishan @ Bhola v. State of Punjab and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, February 14, 2022: The case of premature release of a life convict is governed by the policy of the Government prevailing on the date of the judgment of conviction and not by the policy which existed on the date of consideration of his premature release, held the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 

The Bench of Justice Sant Parkash was approached with a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for the pre-mature release of the convict- petitioner in an FIR under Sections 302/307/34 of IPC and Sections 25 & 27 of Arms Act. In the said FIR, the petitioner was convicted and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment by an Order of the Sessions Judge, Patiala out of which the petitioner already underwent more than 9 years and 5 months of the actual sentence.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the petitioner was entitled to be released prematurely as he already underwent the required sentence for premature release in view of the Instructions of Govt. of Punjab (1991) regarding the premature release of the life convicts in the exercise of the powers conferred under Sections 432, 433 and 433(A) of Cr.P.C. and Article 161 of the Constitution of India. 

To support his case, the counsel relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Haryana v. Mohinder Singh, 2007(4) RCR 909, wherein the Top Court observed that the instructions which were applicable at the time of conviction are to be applied for consideration in the case of life convict for grant of premature release. 

The State counsel submitted that the petitioner was not entitled to get premature release as he did not fulfill the condition of the Premature Release Policy of 1991 as well as the existing Policy of 2017 whereby the petitioner was required to undergo 9 years actual or 13 years actual or with remission but in this case, he underwent 7 years, 1 month and 5 days of the actual sentence.

The first question which was put forth before the Court was regarding the policy which would be  applicable to the present petitioners.

In respect of this, the Court observed at the outset that at the time of conviction of petitioners, the Premature Release Policy of 1991 was in existence. Further, to look into the legal position governing this issue, the Court considered a plethora of decisions wherein it was held that for grant of remissions, the life convict would be governed by the policy of remissions prevailing on the date of the judgment of conviction and not by the policy which existed on the date of consideration of his premature release. Also, it was held that in case a liberal policy prevails on the date of consideration of the case of a “lifer” for pre-mature release, he should be given the benefit thereof. 

Applying this legal position to the present case, the Court observed that undisputedly, at the time of conviction of petitioner in 2010, the prevailing policy for pre-mature release of convicts was the Premature Release Policy of 1991. 

As per this policy, the Court observed that for considering the case of premature release, the condition required for life convict was to undergo 10 years actual sentence and 14 years of the sentence with Remission. Further, the Government issued instructions in 2001, wherein it was provided that where a convict opts to undergo sentence in Open Air Jail Nabha, he will be given the benefit of remissions of one year and will be released from jail one year earlier.

Therefore, the Court was of the considered view that the case of the petitioners was to be considered as per the conditions mentioned in Govt. Policy of  1991 which were prevalent at the time of his conviction. Moreover, the Court opined that in view of the instructions issued by Punjab Govt. in 2001, the petitioner shall also be granted the benefit of remission of one year as the convict opted to undergo his sentence in open Air Jail Nabha. 

Thus, in view of the fact that the petitioner underwent more than 10 years of the actual sentence and more than 15 years with remission, which  fell within the purview of the 1991 Policy, the petition was allowed. 

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