As the country celebrated Independence Day on Thursday, 59 life convicts continued to languish in jails across the State even after becoming eligible for release on completion of 14 years of imprisonment. What has led to their continued incarceration is an apparent lapse by officials of the Prison Department, who added their names to the list of about 900 inmates shortlisted for premature release.

Sources in the department said that there were over 59 inmates, including 14 in the Bangalore Central Prison, who have served their 14 years of life sentence and become eligible for release. A majority of them were from rural areas and senior citizens, suffering from various ailments.

The Supreme Court guidelines for persons awarded life imprisonment says that they are to serve the sentence till their death. However, the apex court has given the President and the Governor the powers to release the prisoners taking into consideration their age and health condition after they have served 14 years, according to the former Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) H.S. Chandramouli.

But sources in the department said the Prison Advisory Board, which should prepare the list of such prisoners who have served 14 years for seeking Governor’s approval for release, had “in its wisdom” included names of several other convicts who are yet to complete their term. “A recent list containing 933 convicts sent to the Governor was rejected outright,” they added.

They also said that the prison authorities had added ineligible convicts to the list. “Many hardened criminals, who rule the roost inside the prison, often threaten to create problems if the authorities do not include their names in the list. And the prison officials succumb to the blackmail,” the sources added. Mr. Chandramouli told The Hindu the SC gave powers to the Governor for release after several instances of premature release due to “political influence” were brought to its notice. The Governor could consider release of prisoners after 14 years of sentence in individual cases, based on their age and health.