Govt's prerogative to release convicts serving life term: HC



Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has held that it is a prerogative of the government to order release of a convict sentenced to life imprisonment after he serves 20 years.

"It is the domain of the government to consider the case along with the recommendation made and pass the order. Writ of mandamus cannot command the government for passing such order or to release the convict after expiry of 14 years or 20 years without any specific order," Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir ruled on Friday.

The ruling was delivered by Justice Mir while dismissing the petition of Mohammad Qasim Faktoo, sentenced to life imprisonment in the murder case of human rights activist H N Wanchoo. Faktoo was seeking release as he had completed 20 years in jail in May this year.

Observing that life imprisonment means imprisonment for entire life, the judge held that the judgement was passed "in light of the law laid down by the judgements of the Supreme Court and other courts."

Referring to the argument of counsel for petitioner, Mian Abdul Qayoom, that in terms of Section 57 of Ranbir Penal Code, life imprisonment means imprisonment for 20 years, the court observed that "the argument is devoid of any force as the object of the said section is how to calculate the fractions of terms of punishment and provides that imprisonment for life shall be reckoned as equivalent to imprisonment for 20 years..."

Justice Mir said the contention that the provisions contained in the Jail Manual and Prisons Act mandate that imprisonment for life means 20 years "has no substance".

"The provisions contained in the Jail Manual, Prisons Act and Prisoners Act are just how to regulate and manage the prisoners in the prisons," the court said and cited the apex court's judgement in G V Godse vs State of Maharashtra in this regard.

Qayoom had argued that Faktoo had earned remission for his good behaviour in the jail and his cumulative period of detention came out to be 20 years which amounted to life imprisonment.

Faktoo was first detained in 1993 under the Public Safety Act but after six years of imprisonment, a TADA court acquitted him of all the charges.

He was re-arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi in 2002 and sentenced to life imprisonment in the murder case of human rights activist H N Wanchoo.

PTI