SC takes note of pendency of pleas for premature release, asks states to submit reports to NALSA

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New Delhi, Feb 2 (PTI) The Supreme Court has taken note of the pendency of applications filed by the convicts for premature release and asked the states to submit their reports to National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) on the issue so that the process could be streamlined.

The apex court, which observed that remedy available to detenues more specifically of remission should be made available at the earliest, said that states should submit their reports through the state legal services authorities to the NALSA.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy referred to the data filed with NALSA report as per which 1,649 applications of convicts for premature release are pending.

“It should be verified as to how long have these applications been pending to get us an insight into this issue,” it said.

“We also find that 431 prisoners have not applied for premature release and thus may not be aware of their rights. It is towards this objective that we have passed the directions in the present matter which pertains to Chhattisgarh but the same principles must apply across the board,” it said.

The top court passed the order while hearing a matter arising out of Chhattisgarh in which the petitioner had completed the sentence of 14 years in March 2017 but he was released from jail in October 2020 after his plea for remission was accepted.

“We are of the view that in such cases the superintendent jail should be looking into all such matters and making sure that remedy is available to the detenu,” it said.

The bench noted that the petitioner’s application for remission was sent after two-and-a-half-year in September 2019 and thereafter, it took the home department of the state one more year to accept it and finally he was released from jail in October last year.

“We call upon the state of Chhattisgarh to file an affidavit setting out as to what process they have or propose to initiate to ensure that immediately on completing 14 years of sentence as per the Rules, the superintendent jail is responsible for ensuring that the application is sent for consideration for remission, not later than one month from the date of completion of the said sentence,” it said.

“We would also like time schedules to be fixed within which such an application is processed by the home department and this should not take more than two to three months, unlike the present case where it has taken a year. The objective of our directions is to ensure that such situations at least do not arise in future,” the bench said, adding that affidavit be filed before it within three weeks.

It noted that the focus appears to be on forwarding the papers to file special leave petition (SLP) in the apex court on the anvil of 14 years expiry to complete the formality rather than ensuring that the application for remission is forwarded and considered expeditiously.

“In fact, such appeals are being filed within the range of 13 or 14 years or on completion of sentence or as in the present case sometimes even years thereafter,” the bench said.

It asked advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court on behalf of NALSA, to ensure that its order is circulated to all the states for compliances and “different states should submit their reports through the state legal services authorities to the NALSA which may then place the picture before us as to how to streamline the process.” The bench said that Agrawal may also make his own suggestions as to how the process can be streamlined.

“We may emphasize that the role of NALSA is to prefer SLPs where it is felt that the order deserves to be examined on merits but where the order is not faulty on merits, the focus may shift to make sure that the remedy available to the detenues, more specifically of remission is made available at the earliest,” it said.

“We are of the view that the services of the para legal volunteers who visit jails should be utilized for this purpose under the guidance of the NALSA, if so required,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on March 1. PTI ABA ABA RKS RKS