New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday orally observed that just because one is a constitutional authority, they cannot say they are above the law, while directing the Uttar Pradesh government to dispose of all cases related to premature release of prisoners within a period of three months of the prisoner becoming eligible.
The Uttar Pradesh government counsel contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud that there may be certain “practical aspects” which can prevent authorities from following the directions, involving the disposal of cases related with premature release of convicts. Counsel pointed out that the decision-making process involves many officials, which includes the Director General-Prisons, then the matter is examined by the state government and finally, the Governor.
At this, the Chief Justice said: “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, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, directed the officials of legal services authorities in Uttar Pradesh to collect information from district and state prisons on convicts who have become eligible for premature release. It further directed the state government that all cases in connection with the premature release of prisoners shall be disposed of within three months of the prisoner becoming eligible for the relief.
The apex court was informed that 2,228 convicts are entitled for remission in Uttar Pradesh. Emphasising on implementing the process in a transparent manner, the bench 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 efficiently.
The apex court made it clear that the state government should take final decision based on the policy governing the premature release of convicts.
According to Uttar Pradesh government’ s 2018 policy, a convict serving a life term would be considered for premature release if the person has undergone a total of 20 years of the sentence - 16 years of the actual sentence and four years of remission.
The apex court, besides Uttar Pradesh, also issued notices to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on monitoring the premature release of convicts there.
In September last year, the apex court had taken note of the Uttar Pradesh policy on remission. According to this policy, there will be no requirement for an application for premature release from a convict and their cases will be considered automatically by the jail authorities.