State government competent authority to decide on remission of sentence, Supreme Court
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State government competent authority to decide on remission of sentence, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court has directed the State of Tamil Nadu to consider the representation made by a Refugee for premature release from prison after serving a term of 36 years.

The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi directed the Tamil Nadu government to decide on the representation made by the petitioner, who claims to be a Sri Lankan Refugee, and take his plea to logical end expeditiously. The Bench has added that the State need not consult with the Government of India and shall exercise its powers under Sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

The petitioner, along with his co-accused, had been charged with various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Sections 302, 307, and 120B. After the conclusion of the trial, the petitioner was convicted by the trial court and was awarded various sentences directed to run concurrently and was also awarded death sentence on three counts.

Upon appeal before the Madras High Court, the conviction and sentence was upheld. However, the death sentence was remitted to a life term by the High Court. This judgment of the High Court attained finality.

The petitioner subsequently applied for premature release since he had served a substantially long period in prison. The Advisory Board, however, came to reject his consideration. The competent authority of the State government later considered his proposal for premature release, but the plea was again rejected. Eight years after this rejection, the petitioner wrote to the Home Secretary of the State of Tamil Nadu for the same.

As the petitioner did not get any response to the said representation, he filed the current petition in Supreme Court.

He has prayed for a premature release or in the alternative, remit the sentence and release the petitioner while the current petition is pending before the Supreme Court.

While considering the question, the Court noted that it is a settled principle that grant of premature release is not a matter of privilege but is a power conferred on the State government under Sections 432 and 433 of the CrPC. The Courts cannot supplant that procedure, the judgment asserts.

“As a matter of fact, it is well settled by now that grant or non­-grant of remission is the prerogative to be exercised by the competent authority and it is not for the Court to supplant that procedure. Indeed, grant of premature release is not a matter of privilege but is a power coupled with duty conferred on the appropriate Government in terms of Section 432 and 433 of CrPC, to be exercised by the competent authority after taking into account all the relevant factors,”

The Court noted that the petitioner in the instant case had undergone a prison term of thirty-six years in total. However, whether he should be granted remission on all counts at one go was a question to be decided by the competent authority and the Court said that it does not “wish to dilate on that aspect.”

Thus, the Court held that it cannot direct the Respondent State to grant remission to the petitioner and thus did not express any opinion on the merits of his plea. The Court, however, directed the Respondent State to consider the representation made by the petitioner and decide on it within a period of four months in accordance with the law.

The Court also said that the fact that the petitioner’s request for premature release was already considered once and rejected by the Advisory Board of the State Government should not to come in the way of the petitioner for consideration of his fresh representation.

Read the judgment:

Rajan-vs-Home-Secretary-Tamil-NAdu.pdf
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