Chandigarh, March 16
In a significant judgment liable to change the way convicts are granted relief, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asserted that the norm of undergoing a minimum six years in custody for considering suspension of sentence in cases of conscious possession of contraband’s commercial quantity was liable to be slightly relaxed.
Referring to the norm laid down in the case of “Daler Singh versus the State of Punjab”, the Bench of Justice MS Ramachandra Rao and Justice Sukhvinder Kaur asserted it was liable to relaxed by six months, while maintaining the minimum custody of 15 months after conviction.
The ruling came on an application seeking the suspension of 12-year sentence imposed by a Ludhiana Special Court Judge in a drugs case vide decision dated October 9, 2019. The Bench was told that the applicant’s appeal against the judgment was admitted in November 2019. The recovery of Rs 1 lakh fine was also stayed during the pendency.
Taking up the matter, the Bench asserted he had already undergone five-and-a-half year custody, including post-conviction custody of more than two years. There was no likelihood of the pending appeal being heard in the near future.
The Bench asserted it had called for information from Haryana Director General (Prisons), and the office of Punjab Additional DGP (Prisons). It indicated that the number of inmates in prisons was far in excess of the capacity of most jails in both the states.
“In view of the additional factor, we are of the considered opinion that the norm of undergoing minimum mandatory period of custody of six years for consideration of grant of relief of suspension of sentence in cases where there is conscious possession of commercial quantity of contraband laid down in the decision of Daler Singh is liable to slightly relaxed by six months while maintaining the minimum custody of 15 months after conviction,” the Bench added
Referring to the applicant’s custody period, the Bench added he would anyway serve the sentence imposed and undergo full custody if the appeal was dismissed. As such, the application was allowed and the rest of the sentence was suspended subject to furnishing of bail/surety bonds.
Jails busting at the seams
Jails continue bust at theseams in both Punjab and Haryana with the numbers of prisoners, including the ones facing trial, being far in excess of the capacity. Information placed before a Division Bench in connection states there were 30,188 inmates against the capacity of 26,556 in Punjab jails. In Haryana too, the situation was the same with 25,373 inmates against the capacity of 20,953
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