Delhi

‘Early release of convicts granted on whims of Sentence Review Board’

There is apprehension, or likelihood, of bias against certain prisoners based on caste or religion, observes High Court

The Delhi High Court on Thursday took a serious note of a plea seeking fairness and impartiality in the functioning of the Sentence Review Board (SRB), saying “a convict should know why he or she is not being released”.

A Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V.K. Rao issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on the plea by social activist Amit Sahni, who is also a lawyer.

The SRB deals with the issue of premature release of convicts.

The court, during the hearing, made an oral observation that it appeared premature release “was being granted on the whims and fancies” of the SRB and there was an “apprehension or likelihood” of bias against certain prisoners based on caste or religion, as alleged in the plea.

Transparency

The petition has given suggestions on making the process fair, the court said and asked the Delhi government if it did not agree, then what alternatives can be put in place “to ensure transparency”.

Senior advocates Sanjay Jain and Hariharan, appearing for Mr. Sahni, questioned how the SRB was dealing with the issue of premature release.

They also suggested that names of convicts, who are seeking premature release, be masked with numbers so that their caste or religion is not known to the SRB and to avoid “extraneous consideration”.

The petition has alleged that premature release of poor convicts was not being done in a fair and impartial manner and as per the statutory order passed by the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) in 2004.

The petition mentioned an instance where one inmate, Sikander Singh, died in jail awaiting the decision of the SRB. It said that the convict had already undergone more than 28 years of incarceration and his detention beyond 25 years was illegal and uncalled for.

“Right to legal representation must be also given to the convict, whose cases are placed before the SRB for the purpose of consideration for premature release. SRB meetings must be videographed to ensure transparency in the working and functioning of the SRB,” it has said.

The PIL has further said that the entire material placed before the SRB — police reports, reports from jail, nominal rolls, report from social welfare department and other documents — must be forwarded to the L-G for taking an independent decision as to whether recommendations of the board are in pursuance to the material considered by it or the same is affected by some extraneous reasons.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 5:41:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/early-release-of-convicts-granted-on-whims-of-sentence-review-board/article25737522.ece

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