A Full Bench of the Supreme Court held that the premature release of the accused must be based on the goal of reformation. The Bench opined that the conduct of the accused must be scrutinized for deciding the possibility of the repetition of the offence.
Brief Facts of the Case
The Appellants kidnapped the victim, their friend, for ransom. Further, the victim was kidnapped at gunpoint. The victim’s father filed a missing report. While exchanging the ransom money to the hands of the Appellants, the victim’s father tipped off the police. The police then raided the home of the Appellants.
The Trial Court charged the Appellants under Section 364A of IPC. Another charge under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959 was also imposed. Life imprisonment and fine were awarded to each accused of the offence of Kidnapping for ransom.
The Appellants were denied a grant for premature release by the Respondent State. This was despite a long imprisonment period along with established good conduct.
Hence, this special leave petition was filed before the Court.
The Counsel for the State submitted that the Petitioners’ crime is heinous. Also, the victim’s family is apprehensive of a repetition of the crime. The governmental authorities reasoned that their release may cause harm to society.
The Appellants’ Counsel argued that the lengthy imprisonment and good conduct of the Appellants in jail were overlooked. The Counsel re-iterated their qualification for premature release on the same.
The Bench supported the reformative theory, condemning a punitive attitude for a civilized society. It observed that first-time offenders should be deal with liberally. They should be given a chance to repent their past and to look forward to a bright future.
There exists a restriction under Section 433A of CrPC against the release of persons sentenced to life imprisonment. They cannot be released until they have served at least fourteen years of their actual sentence.
The Bench observed that the Government orders dismissing a premature release of the Petitioner overlooks Section 2 of the UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938. The Act provides a three-factor evaluation of antecedents, conduct during imprisonment, and also the likelihood to abstain from crime.
It was noted that the State’s refusals were not based on facts or evidence. The Bench termed the reasons to be vague and unsubstantiated opinions of the State authorities.
The Bench reiterated that the length of the sentence or gravity of the original crime cannot be the sole basis for refusing premature release.
As per the State’s affidavit, the conduct of the Appellants has been more than satisfactory. They have no material criminal antecedents and have served almost sixteen years in custody. Although fifty-four and forty-three years in age, the Bench noted that they still have a good amount of years of life remaining.
However, the Court held that this alone does not prove that they tend to commit offences. The State’s repeated reliance on age defeats the purpose of remission and probation, despite the Appellants having met all statutory requirements for premature release.
The Court ordered the release of the Appellants on probation according to Section 2 of the UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938. The Court noted that they could still be imposed with reasonable restrictions by the State to balance public safety with individual liberty.
Further, the Bench stated that the present order is reversible and can be recalled in the event of any future misconduct by the Petitioners.
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