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Gravity of the original crime can’t be the sole basis for refusing premature release- SC



Satish @ Sabbe v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Special Leave Petition (CRL.) No. 7369 of 2019, With Special Leave Petition (CRL.) No. 8326 of 2019, September 30, 2020

The Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Surya Kant, Justice N.V.Ramana and Justice Hrishikesh Roy held that the gravity of the original crime can’t be the sole basis for refusing premature release and the predilection to commit crime upon release must be based on antecedents and the conduct of the prisoner while in jail,

The present case is an appeal by the petitioners against the order of conviction of the Allahabad High Court.

Facts:

On 12.06.2002, one Vishal Sarawat (the victim) was on his way to meet a friend, while he was stopped by an acquaintance Ramvir Rana who asked him for a lift to his house. Subsequently, he was kidnapped and Rs. 2 crores was demanded as ransom. After negotiations they settled for 32 lakhs. Nepal Singh brought the ransom money to Ramvir’s house and after being assured that his son was safe he informed the police about Ramvir’s residence. Eventually, the police arrested them and recovered a pistol. They were charged of kidnapping for ransom.

The Trial court found the accused guilty under section 364A of IPC and section 25 of the Arms act, 1959 and sentenced them to imprisonment for life and fine of Rs.10000 to each accused. an appeal was made before the Allahabad High Court. the High Court found them guilty under section 364A IPC but set aside the charge under section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959 on the ground of failure to record disclosure statement under Section 27of the Evidence Act, 1872.

In the appeal, the Supreme Court while tacitly declining to interfere with their conviction issued limited notice to the respondent-State calling upon them to furnish details regarding the petitioners’ entitlement to premature release. Since, the petitioner’s prayer for premature release has again been declined vides Government Orders dated 01.09.2020, the Supreme Court decided to hear the contention of the parties at length.

Question of Law:

The question of law in the case was whether premature release of the prisoner can be denied on the grounds of gravity of the original crime, his age, apprehension to the victims and witnesses without taking into account the antecedents as well as conduct of the prisoner while in jail.

Contention from both sides:

The learned State counsel contended that the Probation Board considered afresh Satish’s case and vikky’s case and has refused probation for the reasons that – (i) the crime is heinous, (ii) petitioner is hardly 53 and 43 years old, respectively and can repeat the crime, (iii) informant has serious apprehensions against his release, and (iv) governmental authorities have adversely commented upon his release considering its direct adverse effect on the society.

Counsel for the petitioners contended that the impugned orders purportedly passed under the Jail Manual and UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938 overlooks the mandatory factors of ‘antecedents’ and ‘conduct in prison’. They also placed importance on the lengthy imprisonment, lack of antecedents and good conduct in jail of the petitioners.

Judgment:

The court explained the importance of the reformative theory in the following words:

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that society has a right to lead a peaceful and fearless life, without free roaming criminals creating havoc in the lives of ordinary peace loving citizens. But equally strong is the foundation of reformative theory which propounds that a civilised society cannot be achieved only through punitive attitudes and vindictiveness; and that instead public harmony, brotherhood and mutual acceptability ought to be fostered. Thus, first time offenders ought to be liberally accorded a chance to repent their past and look forward to a bright future.

The Supreme Court, while bringing out the significance of the three factor evaluation of (i) antecedents, (ii) conduct during incarceration, and (iii) likelihood to abstain from crime under Section 2 of the UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938 and how the same has been overlooked by the state, observed the following:

It would be gainsaid that length of the sentence or the gravity of the original crime can’t be the sole basis for refusing premature release. Any assessment regarding predilection to commit crime upon release must be based on antecedents as well as conduct of the prisoner while in jail, and not merely on his age or apprehensions of the victims and witnesses. As per the State’s own affidavit, the conduct of both petitioners has been more than satisfactory. They have no material criminal antecedents, and have served almost 16 years in jail (22 years including remission). Although being about 54 and 43 years old, they still have substantial years of life remaining, but that doesn’t prove that they retain a propensity for committing offences. The respondent State’s repeated and circuitous reliance on age does nothing but defeat the purpose of remission and probation, despite the petitioners having met all statutory requirements for premature release. (Para 18)

The court noted the importance of the rights of the prisoner and reiterated its judgment in Shor v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Munna v. State of Uttar Pradesh in the following words:

Merely repeating the fact that the crime is heinous and that release of such a person would send a negative message against the justice system in the society are factors de hors Section 2. Conduct in prison has not been referred to at all and the Senior Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate confirming that the prisoner is not “incapacitated” from committing the crime is not tantamount to stating that he is likely to abstain from crime and lead a peaceable life if released from prison.(Para 19)

Consequently, the petitions were disposed of with a direction that the petitioners be released on probation in terms of Section 2 of the UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938 within a period of two weeks. The Court granted liberty to the state to impose conditions as it may deem fit to balance public safety with individual liberty.


Kalidharun K M.


View/ Download the Judgment: Satish @ Sabbe v. State of Uttar Pradesh

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