Read Order: Julfan v. State of Haryana and Others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, March 10, 2022: In view of the findings recorded by the Supreme Court in State of Haryana and Ors. Vs. Jagdish, Criminal Appeal No. 566 Of 2010 the Punjab and Haryana High Court has reiterated that pardons, reprieves and remissions are manifestations of the exercise of prerogative power and these are not acts of grace and are a part of the Constitutional scheme. 

Justice Sant Parkash also said,“It is as much an official duty as any other act which is vested in the Authority not for the benefit of the convict only, but for the welfare of the people; who may properly insist upon the performance of that duty by him if a pardon or parole is to be granted.”

Here, the Court was dealing with a petition filed under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India for quashing/setting aside of the impugned order passed by the first respondent deferring the premature release case of the petitioner for two years with a further prayer directing the respondents to reconsider the case of the petitioner afresh under the policy/instructions of Haryana Government dated April 12, 2002, applicable at the time of his conviction. 

The petitioner along with his co-accused by hatching conspiracy committed the murder of his mother-in-law and father-in-law with ‘kulhari’, ‘gandasi’ and stones after their abduction in order to grab their property. Their minor daughter was also kidnapped and injuries were inflicted upon her. Thus, in 2007, the petitioner was convicted and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life by the Court of Additional Sessions Judge Yamunanagar. Feeling aggrieved, the petitioner filed an appeal which was dismissed. 

The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the petitioner underwent an actual sentence of more than 14 years and a total sentence of 20 years with remissions and that his case fell under category 2(a) of the Premature Release Policy dated April 12, 2002, of the Haryana Government. The respondents vide impugned order dated January 8, 2021, deferred the case of premature release of the petitioner for two years. It was also argued that the further detention of the petitioner was against the said Govt. policy and in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and that the petitioner was fulfilling all the conditions for grant of pre-mature release as per the Govt. Instructions. 

Per contra, the state Counsel argued that the petitioner committed serious offences and he cannot claim premature release as a matter of right. It was also argued that such release was only a concession given by the State Government after considering the behaviour of the convict inside the jail, gravity, nature of offence, manner and circumstances under which the crime was committed. 

It was also the counsel’s case that on completion of 14 years of the actual sentence and 20 years and 1 day of total sentence as on March 23, 2020, the case of premature release of the petitioner was placed before the State Level Committee recommended that in view the nature of the crime committed by the life convict in a cruellest, ghastly and barbaric manner, the case for his premature release be deferred for two years w.e.f. March 31, 2020.

Further, it was also submitted that the premature release policy itself contains that no convict has a fundamental right of remission or shortening of sentence and the State Government, in the exercise of its discretionary power of remission is to consider each case individually keeping in view all the relevant factors. Thus, the counsel vouch for the dismissal of the petition. 

After looking into the precedents cited by the parties on the issue under consideration, the Court observed that it has been held that the case of premature release of a life convict is governed by the policy/guidelines of the Government and the gravity of the offence(s) of the accused are also to be considered for the purpose. 

Coming to the fact sheet of the case, the Court observed that the petitioner sought his premature release on the ground that as per policy dated  April 12, 2002 (prevalent at the time of his conviction) he completed the required sentence for considering his case for pre-mature release. The Court noted the respondents deferred his case for premature release (by two years) keeping in view of the heinousness/gravity of the crime committed by him. 

Further, while referring to the Judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Haryana Versus Mahender Singh and Others, Criminal Appeal No. 30 of 2005, the Court noted that whenever a policy decision regarding remission of a sentence is made, persons must be treated equally in terms thereof and the case of the petitioner for his premature release is to be considered equally with other cases of life imprisonment where double murder has been committed and the life convicts were released pre-maturely on their fulfilment of the criteria/conditions of the policy/instructions of the State Government. 

The Court then went on to observe that the policy dated April 12, 2002, was applicable to the petitioner and as per clause 2 (a) the Policy, the petitioner to undergo 14 years of the actual sentence and 20 years of total sentence including remissions on account of the fact that offences alleged to have been committed by him are covered under the said clause. The petitioner has undergone more than 15 years of the actual sentence and more than 20 years of a sentence with remissions, the Court added. 

“Therefore, the petitioner, in this case, was required to be treated at par and he is held entitled to the same/similar treatment for the purpose of premature release. Even otherwise also the deferred period of two years is to be reckoned from 31.03.2020 which is going to expire within few days”, noted Justice Parkash. 

Thus, in view of the above discussion, the present petition was allowed and the impugned order was set aside.  

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