Naskar Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 37 (2 February 2000)
this common judgment we propose to dispose of six writ petitions filed under
Article 32 of the Constitution as the points involved in all the petitions are
common. Writ petitions have been filed on behalf of life convicts as their
prayer for pre-mature release was rejected by the Government of West Bengal.
The common grievance is that though they are entitled for pre-mature release
under relevant rules, their prayer was rejected by the Government on extraneous
consideration. It is settled position of law that life sentence is nothing less
than lifelong imprisonment and by earning remissions a life convict does not
acquire a right to be released prematurely; but if the Government has framed
any rule or made a scheme for early release of such convicts then those rules
or schemes will have to be treated as guidelines for exercising its power under
Article 161 of the Constitution and if according to the Government
policy/instructions in force at the relevant time the life convict has already
undergone the sentence for the period mentioned in the policy/instructions,
then the only right which a life convict can be said to have acquired is the
right to have his case put up by the prison authorities in time before the
authorities concerned for considering exercise of power under Article 161 of
the Constitution. When an authority is called upon to exercise its powers under
Article 161 of the Constitution that will have to be done consistently with the
legal position and the Government policy/instructions prevalent at that time.
(4) & (29) of Rule 591 of the West Bengal Rules relating to premature
release of life convict run as follows:
considering the cases of prisoners submitted to it under sub-rules (1) and (2),
the State Government shall take into consideration (I) the circumstances in
each case, (ii) the character of the convicts crime, (iii) his conduct in
prison and (iv) the probability of his reverting to criminal habits or
instigating others to commit crime. If the State Government is satisfied that
the prisoner can be released without any danger to the society or to the public
it may take steps for issue of orders for his release under section 401 of the
Code of criminal Procedure, 1898.
Every case in which a convict, who has not received the benefit of any of the
foregoing rules, is about to complete a period of 20 years of continued
detention including remission earned, if any, shall be submitted three months
before such completion by the Superintendent of the Jail in which the convict
is for the time being detained, through the Inspector-General, for orders of
the State Government. If the convicts jail records during the last three years
of his detentions are found to be satisfactory the State Government may remit
the remainder of his sentence.
the life convicts before us have completed continued detention of 20 years
including remission earned.
the counter filed by the State, we find that the Government has also framed
guidelines for this purpose. To consider the prayer for premature release of
the life convicts, police report was called for on the following points :- i)
Whether the offence is an individual act of crime without affecting the society
at large; ii) Whether there is any chance of future recurrence of committing
crime; iii) Whether the convict has lost his potentiality in committing crime;
iv) Whether there is any fruitful purpose of confining this convict any more;
v) Socio-economic condition of the convicts family.
the police report did not cover all the above points, the prayer of life
convicts for premature release was rejected mainly on the ground of objections
police had only reported about the chances of the petitioners committing crime
again. It becomes apparent from the record that the Government did not consider
the prayer for premature release as per the rules. The Government did not pay
sufficient attention to the conduct-record of the petitioners while in jail nor
did it consider whether they had lost their potentiality in committing crime.
The relevant aspect, namely, that there is no fruitful purpose in confining
them any more was also not considered nor the socio economic conditions of the
convicts family were taken into account. Thus the orders of the Government
suffer from infirmities and are liable to be quashed.
result, we set aside all the orders of the State Government and direct the
authorities to re-consider the cases for premature release of all life convicts
who have approached us by filing present Writ Petitions as per relevant
rules/guidelines within a period of one month from the receipt of this order.
The Writ Petitions are allowed to the extent indicated above.