New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed officials of legal services authorities in Uttar Pradesh to collate information from district and state prisons on convicts who have become eligible for premature release and asked the state government to “strictly abide by” its provisions in this regard.
It directed that all cases related to the premature release of prisoners shall be disposed of within three months of the prisoner becoming eligible for the relief.
Besides Uttar Pradesh, the top court also issued notices to several state governments, including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, on monitoring the premature release of convicts there.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, which was told that 2,228 convicts are entitled for remission in Uttar Pradesh, also directed the jail superintendents in UP to furnish information to the secretaries of the district legal services authority (DLSAs) to ensure that the process of premature release is implemented “in an efficient and transparent matter”.
The state government expressed apprehension that there may be certain “practical aspects” which can prevent authorities from following the directions as the decision involves a chain of officials, including the Director General-Prisons, followed by the state government and the Governor.
“There is no vacuum at the constitutional level… that’s how prescient the Constitution is. Just because one is a constitutional authority, they cannot say they are above the law,” the bench said.
It said that the state government shall “strictly abide by” the provisions contained in the policy governing the premature release of convicts and take final decisions based on them.
According to the 2018 policy of the Uttar Pradesh government, a convict serving a life term would be considered for premature release if he or she has undergone a total of 20 years of the sentence – 16 years of the actual sentence and four years of remission.
“Chairperson of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) will collate information from the district and state prisons on convicts who have become eligible as per applicable rules/policies for premature release,” the bench said.
It directed the DLSA secretaries to collate information and submit returns on May 1, August 1 and October 1 to the State Legal Services Authority.
The bench directed the chairperson of the state body to convene a meeting, also to be attended by the Secretary of the Home Department and DG Prisons, to assess the report filed by DLSA.
It directed that “all the cases for considering the premature release of prisoners shall be disposed of, no later than three months of the prisoner becoming eligible for premature release”.
“Within a month of this order DG Prisons shall in consultation with the chairperson of SLSA shall prepare an online dashboard with information of all convicts undergoing sentences of imprisonment and dates on which they are eligible for premature release,” it said.
The top court had on September 6 last year taken note of the Uttar Pradesh policy on remission which said there will be no requirement for a convict to submit an application for premature release and their cases will be considered automatically by the jail authorities.
It had asked the state government to follow the criteria laid down in its 2018 policy while considering within four months the issue of the premature release of 512 prisoners who were serving life imprisonment and had moved the apex court.