Nearly 100 convicts serving life sentences at Hindalga Central Prison in Belgaum have urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to remit their sentence and release them on August 15.
They have sent a letter to Mr. Siddaramaiah and Home Minister K.J. George, through the prison authorities, making an appeal that they be pardoned and given a second lease of life. They have also made a plea on behalf of other life convicts in the State.
There has not been a premature release of reformed convicts in Karnataka since 2006.
The memorandum states that most convicts hail from deprived sections of society and they regret the crime they committed. Many even have a history of being part of pro-active struggles for the cause of farmers and labourers. They stated that they were not habitual criminals and should be given a chance to join the mainstream. The former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had set up the Justice A.N. Mulla Committee to look into prison reforms. One of its recommendations was that convicts with good conduct should be considered for premature release. The committee report invoked Mahatma Gandhi and underlined the need for focussing on reformation and rehabilitation of criminals.
In line with the committee’s recommendation, the N. Dharam Singh-led Congress government in the State released several convicts in 2005 on two occasions. Mr. Siddaramaiah was the Deputy Chief Minister then. A few more convicts were released in 2006. Since then, the issue has been embroiled in controversy, putting an end to the tradition of releasing reformed convicts on Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti.
As against this, the memorandum goes on to explain that the Tamil Nadu government released 1,405 convicts, who had completed seven years of their sentence, in 2009.
The Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy-led Congress government in Andhra Pradesh released 960 convicts the same year. Kerala released 165 prisoners, who had completed a decade of their sentence, in 2010.
The memorandum goes on to state that the Supreme Court in its 2010 verdict, in the Nagaratna vs. Karnataka Government case, stressed on reformation and rehabilitation of convicts. It further describes the lack of basic amenities in overcrowded prisons leading to mental and physical illness of the inmates.
“By punishing them for life for a crime committed because of circumstances, their families have also been punished as they are leading lives of penury and deprivation. Aged grandparents, parents and siblings are awaiting their return, so the government should give the reformed convicts a chance to reunite with their loved ones,” states the memorandum.
A promise made
The memorandum also points out that Mr. Siddaramaiah had promised premature release of convicts with good conduct during his visit to Mysore prison last year on his birthday.