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West Bengal govt. to release 63 life convicts to decongest prisons

Members of Bandimukti Joutha Samiti take part a protest rally in favor of political prisoners, in Kolkata. File   | Photo Credit: Sanjoy Ghosh

In an attempt to decongest its prisons, the West Bengal government has decided to release 63 life convicts. However, civil rights activists have raised questions on why no political prisoners are being released.

“Considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation prevailing in the country and in the State of West Bengal, it is felt that there is need to decongest the prisons. Further, Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 empowers the State government to consider the premature release of life convicts who have served at least 14 years in correctional homes (jails),” a press statement issued by the State government said.

The statement added that considering the age of convicts, their conduct in custody and that they can now spend time with their families, the State government on the recommendation of State Sentence Review Board, has approved to recommend the premature release of 61 male convicts aged over 60 and 2 female convicts aged over 55.

One of the reasons for the crowding of prisons in West Bengal is that the State accounts for highest number of foreign convicts in its correctional homes. As per Prison Statistics of India, 2019 West Bengal had reported the highest number of foreign inmates (2,316) compared to 5,608 foreign national lodged in prisons of the country.

Representatives of Association of Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) said the State government has not made it public whom they are releasing. “There are more than 70 political prisoners mostly charged with Maoist activities and not a single of them is being released. Moreover, after the death of Stan Swamy in custody there is a pressure on all government to release political prisoners,” Ranajit Sur, central secretariat member of APDR said.

The State unit of Bharatiya Janata Party had raised question on religious and caste profiling of the convicts. In the press statement the State government had said that the convicts being release include 51 Hindus and 12 Muslims. The number of convicts in different categories included Scheduled Caste (5), Scheduled Tribe (3), OBC (2) and General (53).

“Why is the West Bengal government indulging in caste and communal profiling of convict? What does it want to prove by creating such divisions?” BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya asked.


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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 2:30:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/wb-govt-to-release-63-life-convicts-to-decongest-prisons/article35711500.ece

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