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Updated: January 8, 2014 00:26 IST

Hope of going home holds the lamp of life burning for them

Hemalatha L.
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Many life convicts in State eagerly await their release from prison

Life for Muniyamma is an endless wait for the return of her son home. What was once a happy family, has now become one that lives in uncertainty.

She recalls that in 2004, her 23-year-old son Yellappa got involved in a scuffle during a cricket match and in the violence that followed, a man died. Yellappa was then convicted for the murder of that man and is serving life sentence in the Bangalore Central Prison.

A decade after the incident, Muniyamma says her son is a new person altogether. When the incident took place, he was a school dropout. Now, Yellappa holds two postgraduate degrees and is pursing Diploma in Ambedkar Studies from KSOU. He also plans to pursue Ph.D. in prison reforms. Listing out the accomplishments of her son, Muniyamma says she hopes he will be given a chance to start his life afresh.

In an attempt to help people like Yellappa integrate into the mainstream society, the Andhra Pradesh government on December 21 released 390 life convicts. A policy decision was taken in this regard on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. “All convicted male prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for life and who have undergone an actual sentence of seven years, including remand period, and total sentence of 10 years, including remission, as on October 2, 2013 shall be released,” the government order says.

In Karnataka after 2006 it is only now that the Cabinet has taken a decision in this regard. Prison officials say that if the State follows the Andhra Pradesh model, nearly 1,000 deserving prisoners will be benefited.

Says ADGP (Prisons) K.V. Gagandeep: “Their release will also to some extent address problems such as overcrowding in prisons, lack of infrastructure, and increasing physical and mental ailments among prisoners who have been incarcerated for a decade or more.”

Families of convicts disown them if they are not released after seven years in jail, an official said, adding that there is a lot of restlessness among prisoners, and psychological problems among them are increasing, as premature release has not happened since 2006. When some of them are released, for others it raises hopes for getting premature release and that keeps them going.

In fact, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in the landmark Supreme Court judgment in Maru Ram and others vs. Union of India (11.11. 1980), said: “For those who listlessly languish in jails waiting for their date with freedom, the human hope of going home holds the lamp of life burning.”

A delegation of criminal law advocates, led by senior advocate C.H. Hanumantha Raya, met Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra on Tuesday and impressed upon him the need to follow the Andhra Pradesh model in respect of premature release of prisoners. According to sources, the Law Minister has agreed to discuss it with the Home Minister and raise the issue during the Cabinet meeting.

Advocate Nitin R., who was part of the delegation that met the Law Minister, said: “The State government can exercise its powers under Article 161 of the Constitution to release life convicts who have completed 10 years of imprisonment, including remand, parole and remission.”

Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments have set a precedent by granting remission to life convicts who have completed seven years of actual imprisonment, he added.

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