V.S. Palaniappan

Coimbatore: Prisoners belonging to the minority community lodged in Coimbatore are pinning hopes that the government would treat them on a par with other prisoners in the grant of sentence remission for good conduct at least this November 15.

Congress Whip in the Assembly S.Peter Alphonse had raised the issue some time ago, asking how many from the Muslim community held in Coimbatore were given remission of sentence.

Enquiries with the prison authorities said that the prison as on date had 70 prisoners belonging to the minority community.

Sources admitted that remission of sentence had not been granted to any prisoner from the minority community after 2000.

Of the 70 in judicial custody, prison officials said that 13 of them were serving thirteen-year sentences and had completed ten years while 53 of them were serving life sentences.

Four were remand prisoners undergoing trial in cases.Prison officials clarified that there was no discrimination on communal lines.

GO classification

The 1985 GO on Amnesty and remission of sentences had classified the prisoners as those involved in robbery, dacoity, escape and those serving sentences for offences under Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act.

Hence, prisoners from the minority community failed to qualify for grant of remission, prison sources said.

Kottai Thangappa, treasurer of Charitable Trust for Minorities (CTM), an organisation formed for the welfare of the serial blast case undertrials and their families, said the Government should consider granting remission for the minority prisoners at least this year rather than discriminating on them communal lines. Such discrimination leading to detention beyond ten years would only eliminate the scope for the reformation of prisoners. Mr.Thangappa said 76 persons from the minority community were in Central Prison, of whom 43 had completed ten years and 12 were not serving any sentence for charges under the Indian Arms Act.

He questioned the rationale behind classifying the undertrials and convicts as those involved in communal cases. Advocate Mohammed Abubacker said the prison authorities and governments went by the opinion of the police.