Advisory Board can recommend sentence remission

With the Supreme Court commuting death sentences imposed on three convicts in Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case to life-imprisonment, advocates and human rights activists say the convicts can get premature release only if the State government considers their cases favourably.

V.Suresh, national general secretary of People’s Union Civil Liberties (PUCL), opined that that the State government could consider the cases for remission under Sections 432 and 433 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“There is very good chance for the Government to positively consider the remission in view of the fact that all these prisoners have been model prisoners, who have been helping others by taking classes, [offering] emotional and psychological counselling and teaching livelihood skills. There is no record of any offence committed by them in prison. So they are eminently qualified for consideration by the State government for release through remission,” he added.

P. Pugalenthi, an advocate and director of the Prisoners’ Welfare Forum, said as per the Prison Manual, the Advisory Board could consider the premature release of a life convict and send its recommendation to the State government if he or she has completed 14 years of imprisonment.

The release could also be considered on humanitarian grounds if the prisoner had completed 20 years of imprisonment as per the State Government’s policy of 1994.

“In either remedy, the government could act on its own or on the prisoner’s request,” Mr.Pugalenthi said.

N. Chandrasekaran, a defence lawyer, said, “We feel relaxed.”

Legal remedy

The legal remedy for the early release of the lifers would be worked out, he added.

K.S.Dinakaran, senior advocate said, “Though life imprisonment means one has to undergo imprisonment till the end of life, release is still possible. The State government has discretionary powers to remit the sentence considering the conduct of the prisoners and also the period they have undergone.”

Going into the rules of Tamil Nadu Prison Manual, V.Kannadasan, formerly Special Public Prosecutor for human rights cases, said: “The rules stipulate that a death convict whose sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment and has undergone 14 years of imprisonment shall be considered for premature release. As per Rule 341, such cases of prisoners should be placed before the Advisory Board. Considering their behaviour and social history, the Board may recommend the premature release to the government.”

A.Sirajudeen, advocate, said though they had been tried under TADA and IPC provisions, ultimately they were convicted and sentenced under the provisions of IPC. For the offences punishable under IPC concerned, the State government was the appropriate authority to grant remission to the prisoners.

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