Governor will have no say in premature release of life convicts

The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to exclude the Governor from having a say in the premature release of life convicts on good conduct.

As per the existing guidelines, the Governor is empowered to take the final decision in the release of such convicts.

Instead, the Cabinet has decided to make itself the final authority on the release of prisoners. Official sources said there was no need to amend any legislation for this purpose because only the guidelines have to be altered.

As per the guidelines issued by the government on January 7 this year, the release of life convicts is processed in seven stages. The first stage is the preparation of a list of eligible convicts by the Additional Director General of Police (Prisons). In the second stage, the ADGP (Prisons) consults the court which is handling the case of the convict concerned and the Prison Advisory Board (PAB).

The list is then submitted to the Home Department to be placed before the high-level committee which comprises the Principal Secretary or Secretary of Law Department, the ADGP (Law and Order), the ADGP (Crime) and the Director of Prosecution.

The ADGP (Prisons) will preside over as member secretary. The High Level Committee is then to prepare a separate file for each convict, including the dissent note, if any. The files are then sent to the State Cabinet for approval. Once approved, the files are dispatched to the Governor for his approval, which is considered final.

Besides removing the Governor’s role, the Cabinet also decided to remove the clause of ADGP (prisons) seeking the opinion of the judiciary and the PAB while framing the preliminary list of prisoners eligible for premature release.

In 2006-07, the High Court had come down heavily on the government for not having any guidelines or regulations on the premature release of life convicts. The provocation was the release of a large number of prisoners. In the absence of any guidelines, the government each time used to approach the Governor for the final decision on the release of life convicts.

But in January, the government came out with a set of guidelines which again empowered the Governor to take a final call. But the government can release life convicts under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) without going through the Governor, official sources said.

It is said that the reason for amending the guidelines was the precedence set by former Governor H R Bhardwaj who had rejected the list of eligible prisoners for premature release. Sources said the chief minister had sought the opinion of the Advocate General (AG) before prevailing upon the Cabinet to amend the guidelines.

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