State-level panels can’t order imprisonment till death: Punjab and Haryana High Court : The Tribune India

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State-level panels can’t order imprisonment till death: Punjab and Haryana High Court

State-level panels can’t order imprisonment till death: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court. File photo



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, July 10

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that state-level committees lack the power to order imprisonment till the last breath for an inmate. The court held that such an order, passed by the panel, contravenes a Supreme Court judgment.

Amid calls by the apex court and rights organisations for changing the mindset to make jails reformative and rehabilitative, the high court also asserted that the environment inside prisons was not conducive to reform. Justice Sandeep Moudgil asserted it was, as such, necessary that the prisoners came out of jail for a short period at regular intervals.

Court’s observation

Environment inside prisons is not conducive to reform. It is necessary prisoners come out of jail for short period at regular intervals. —HC Bench

The assertion came as Justice Moudgil allowed a petition filed against the state of Haryana and other respondents by an inmate, whose prayer for premature release was rejected and an order was passed saying he would remain in jail till his last breath.

Justice Moudgil asserted: “The committee did not have any power to prescribe the capital and alternate punishment or to alter the punishment given by the trial court and it is not open to court, inferior to the High Court and the Supreme Court, while awarding sentence of life imprisonment, to provide for any specific term of incarceration, or till the end of the convict’s life.”

Justice Moudgil also asserted life convicts would be eligible for release into society once they had served a sufficient period of time in prison “to mark the seriousness of their offences.” The law provided for executive remissions, which was completely based on discretion. Such prudence was, in turn, based on the guidelines framed at the state level. “As an effective alternative to the death penalty, imprisonment and specifically life imprisonment has been favoured by the legal systems,” the Bench observed.

Justice Moudgil added crime was an outcome of a distorted mind and jails “must have an environment of hospital for treatment and care.” As such, imprisonment was for reforming an “anti-social” personality into a social person. Imprisonment was for correction and not for the destruction of personalities.

In his detailed order, Justice Moudgil observed the primary objective underlying premature release was the reformation of offenders, and their rehabilitation and integration into society. At the same time, the protection of society from criminal activities was required to be ensured.

The two aspects were closely interlinked. Incidental to it was the conduct, behaviour, and performance of prisoners while in prison. “These have a bearing on their rehabilitative potential and the possibility of their being released by virtue of remission earned by them, or by an order granting them premature release. The most important consideration for the premature release of prisoners is that they have become harmless and useful members of a civilised society,” Justice Moudgil added.

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