Chandigarh: Punjab Police DGP SS Saini on Thursday said a lot of "disinformation and wrong information" is being circulated over the issue of premature release of prisoners even as he maintained that no laxity would be permitted on issues of peace and communal harmony.
Speaking at a news conference here, the DGP said Punjab Police recently went to places outside the state, including foreign countries, to nab wanted persons accused in targeted killings carried out in the past in different parts of Punjab including Amritsar, Pathankot, Gurdaspur "at the behest of their ISI mentors with a view to creating communal tension and violence, etc".
He said in recent times there have been activities which have the potential "to disrupt harmony and these are required to be appropriately addressed."
In this regard, he cited the example of a 70-year-old radical Sikh Surat Singh who has been on an indefinite fast in Ludhiana for the past nearly 40 days, demanding release of 82 persons lodged in the jails.
Despite efforts by Jagraon SSP Ravcharan Singh Brar and other senior officials of Ludhiana civil administration to persuade Singh to end the fast, he has remained adamant over his demand, the DGP said.
Saini said Singh has been eating very little, that includes, "...Diet Coke, desi ghee, Bournvita milk and lemon water. Over two weeks back, he was shifted to hospital, but he has not ended his fast and his health condition is not very good, as per the doctors".
Saini also sought to clarify that the police or administration was not following any "appeasement policy" with respect to Singh by urging him umpteen times to end his fast, saying they would do so in case of any individual.
"Any citizen, who is agitating, whether for right or wrong reason, an effort is made to understand their problem and to find a solution for it," he said, adding but any activity "which infringes on harmony cannot be permitted".
Also getting the facts straight with respect to Singh's demand, the DGP said of the 82 prisoners 25 are still under trial and have not been sentenced any punishment.
Further, he said, these 25 under trials in the "circulated list of 82" include Harminder Singh alias Mintoo, Khalistan Liberation Force chief Jagtar Singh Tara (KTF chief), Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi and Ramandeep Singh alias Goldy who were recently nabbed from Thailand and Malaysia.
The list also includes Rattandeep Singh (BTKF chief) recently arrested from Uttar Pradesh, he said.
"It is not possible to consider any demand for release of such elements," he said.
The DGP added that 16 persons in the list are those who have been awarded imprisonment lesser than life.
"Such convicts, whether these 16 or others similarly
placed, are released the moment the sentence of any convict is over. The Jail Superintendent does it at his own level. Wrong/incomplete information has been provided in six cases details are being ascertained," the DGP said.
Stating that three persons have been acquitted and three others have been released on bail, Saini said, "They are not in any prison."
"It is difficult to comprehend inclusion of such persons in a list which is being circulated both in India and abroad," he pointed out.
"In the list, eight persons have been designated as 'Senior Citizens'. These eight persons were recently convicted in the 1987 Ludhiana Bank Dacoity case. They have not completed their sentence. They have not been awarded life imprisonment. Their sentences vary from seven to 10 years jail term. Legal redressal of bail pending appeal is available to all persons who are old, sick etc," he said.
Among the 82, two prisoners have completed the minimum required sentence which enables them to be considered for a premature release, the DGP said adding, "However, their cases are similar to other 223 life convicts lodged in Punjab jails. After July 2014, when the Supreme Court restrained State Governments from exercising power of remission, no premature release of any lifer has been or can be done."
The DGP also informed that the prevalent situation in the jails of Punjab is that there are about 3,665 persons undergoing life imprisonment.
"A vast majority of them have not undergone the minimum prescribed sentence to become eligible for consideration of a premature release. Presently there are about 223 life convicts in Punjab jails who have undergone the minimum sentence and who could be considered for premature release, subject to the parameters prescribed in the policy," he said.
Their cases are at various stages of examination ? from the level of jail superintendent to the level of the competent authority, he said.
He also said that in July 2014, the Supreme Court had passed an order in Writ Petition holding that "In the meanwhile, the State Governments are restrained from exercising power of remission to life convicts."
"These directions are binding on every State including Punjab. As such, since issuance of these orders of the Supreme Court, no premature release can be ordered by the competent authorities in Punjab.
"This entire matter is presently pending before the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court," he said and added that the matter has been examined at government level.
"The Punjab Government has (recently) filed an application before the Supreme Court praying for an early decision on the matter. Since July, 2014, after the Supreme Court directions restraining the state governments from exercising power of remission to life convicts, no premature release of any lifer has (or can be) done," he stated.