High Court sets aside early release of life convict

Home Secretary directed to arrest the jailbird

The High Court of Karnataka has set aside the release of a prisoner by the State government on the eve of Independence Day in 2006.

The Division Bench of the High Court headed by Justice N Kumar on Friday said that the governor was not obliged to mechanically give effect to advice of the government to commute sentence if such advice was contrary to the parliamentary mandate.

The Court was hearing a petition challenging the release of Manjunath, a prisoner, sentenced for life.

Ramakrishna, a resident of Mandya, had challenged the release of Manjunath, a prime accused in the murder of Ramakrishna’s father. Manjunath had served only eight years in prison.

The governor, before exercising the power of pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution is duty bound to apply his mind to the advice and bring violations of statutory provisions to the notice of the government, the Bench observed.

The Court directed the Home Secretary to arrest Manjunath without warrant and remanded him to serve the remaining period of his sentence.

The State government had released 309 convicts on Independence Day on the occasion of Suvarna Karnataka Year celebration in 2006. Of these, 285 were serving life sentence.

While terming the release of prisoners bad in law, the Bench clarified that its order was applicable only to Manjunath.

“If it comes to the knowledge of government that pardon has been obtained on basis of manifest mistake or patent representation of fraud, the same can be rescinded or cancelled. Therefore the governor is not helpless,” the Court said.

It also pointed out that the State government has the authority to commute the sentence of life convicts only after they serve a minimum of 14 years of their term.

Justice Kumar observed that the government recommended the governor to pardon life convicts who had served eight years in prison and the governor presumed that the government had followed the law and parameters laid down by the Supreme Court.

The Bench set aside the order of commutation of sentence.

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