Allahabad HC questions Covid parole to convicts, seeks reply from govt

Taking exception to the state government’s move to release four murder convicts on parole in view of a Supreme Court order, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has directed the chief secretary to hold an inquiry into circumstances that led to the relaxation. It also criticised the state for “misusing” the Supreme Court judgment.

On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court had, in view of Covid-19, ordered states to form high-powered committees to decongest jails by releasing inmates. The UP panel has decided to sanction parole to prisoners facing up to seven years of jail.

In its order on December 13, the High Court said the Supreme Court judgment was limited to prisoners booked for crimes punishable up to seven years. It asked the four convicts, jailed for life term, to surrender before a chief judicial magistrate in Faizabad. The convicts — Krishna Murari, Raghav Ram, Kashi Ram and Ram Milan — appeared before the Faizabad court on Wednesday and were sent to jail, said a prison official.

They were awarded capital punishment on murder charges by a trial court in Faizabad in 1999 and acquitted by the high court a year later. In 2008, the Supreme Court set aside the acquittal and asked the High Court to hear the case afresh. After this, a non-bailable warrant was issued by the HC and the convicts were taken into custody.

Later, the convicts, all above 68 years of age, were released on parole thrice by government orders issued on May 26, August 12 and December 2 this year.

A division bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Vivek Varma on December 13 ordered, “In view of aforesaid, learned Counsel for the convict/appellants is directed to inform the convict/ appellants to surrender themselves before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Faizabad forthwith, failing which, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Faizabad is directed to take convict/appellants in custody…”

The court observed that “it is a matter of great concern and serious one as the release of the convict/appellants on parole by the State taking the aid of the order of the Apex Court dated 23.03.2020 passed in Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 1 of 2020, which cannot be made applicable to the convict/appellants, who have been awarded capital punishment under Section 302 I.P.C. by the trial Court as the aforesaid judgment was confined to offences punishable up to or less than 7 years with or without fine,” the court observed.

“We record our displeasure the manner in which the State has repeatedly acted in releasing the convict /appellants on parole thrice and no authority of the State was vigilant enough to check this gross failure by misusing the order of the Apex Court dated 23.03.2020,” said the HC.

The HC directed the chief secretary to submit a report by December 20 on how many such convicts, facing jail terms over seven years, were released.

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