J. Venkatesan

Failure to comply with its order on life convicts languishing in jails

  • Bailable warrants will be issued if they fail to appear on April 24
  • States insensitive to plight of prisoners: petition

    New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned Home Secretaries of 12 States to the court on April 24 to explain the reasons for not complying with its January order relating to life convicts languishing in jails.

    A Bench of Justices H.K. Sema and V.S. Sirpurkar gave this direction on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by advocate M.K. Balakrishnan alleging that thousands of life convicts were languishing in jails even after completion of their sentence.

    The 12 States are: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

    Appear with affidavits

    The Bench said the Home Secretaries should appear along with affidavits giving reasons for non-compliance with the order and for failing to appear in the court on Wednesday for default.

    The Bench warned that if they failed to appear on April 24, bailable warrants would be issued (to secure their presence). As the Assam Home Secretary was present, the Bench dispensed with his appearance on the next date of hearing. The Bench also permitted the State to file its reply during the course of the day.

    Response not filed

    In January, the court took to task the 13 States for not filing responses to the notice issued in 2004. It was made clear that affidavits should be filed in eight weeks and the State Home Secretary should be present in the court if the response was not filed.

    Remission of sentence

    The petitioner alleged that the State Governments were insensitive to the plight of thousands of prisoners who had completed 14 years in jail after the award of life sentence and had unblemished record in the prison. They had the power to grant remission of the sentence but for reasons not known, they were not exercising the same. He said that in this era of fast changing criminal jurisprudence and especially the reformative theory, the case of life convicts deserved sympathetic treatment.

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