After completing a 30-year jail term following his conviction as a Khalistani terrorist, Nishan Singh, who became a convict overseer in jail, is set to walk out of prison later this week. In 1997, Singh was sentenced to life imprisonment, a sentence commuted to 30 years in 2011.
Though he had completed his jail term in May this year, the government was reluctant to release him citing a judgment of the apex court.
The Bombay High Court bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar has now ordered Singh’s release after taking into consideration the arguments of Singh’s lawyer, N N Gawankar. He said that ever since a government order commuting Singh’s jail term to 30 years was passed on July 4, 2011, the legal battle for Singh’s early release had gained momentum. On Monday, the HC ordered his release.
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However, by an earlier order, the state government wanted Singh to spend 60 years behind bars, according to his advocate. Gawankar challenged that government order in the HC, which in 2011 ruled in his favour. Subsequently, the state passed the order of Singh’s release after completion of 30-year jail term.
One of the provisions the HC had then taken into consideration dealt with category of murders committed by a member of an extremist group for a particular political ideology. The premature release in this scenario was set at 30 years jail time including remissions.
For Singh’s premature release, remissions too were crucial. According to Gawankar, six years of remission was given to Singh. The rulebook on remissions for convicted prisoners say they are entitled to four types of remissions; ordinary remission, annual remission for good conduct, special remission and state remission. The lawyer credits Singh’s good conduct to be a primary reason behind the remissions.
The government had opposed Singh’s release arguing the Supreme Court judgment passed in a case involving killers of Rajiv Gandhi was pending. When the question of granting premature release arose, the SC referred the matter to a five-bench Constitution bench.
Thereafter, the SC, in July 2014, imposed a blanket stay on release of convicts by way of remission across the country. The order was, however, modified the same year to include certain categories of convicts that were barred from utilising remissions for their premature release.
A clause in the order said the stay on such release of prisoners would be subject to final decision in the case. And the matter, according to Gawankar, was finally decided on December 5, 2015, leaving no reason for the state to retain Singh behind bars.
Singh was arrested on December 2, 1992 in Nashik and convicted on March 12, 1997 by a Special Judge to life imprisonment under Section 3 and 4 of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, under Section 302 (murder) read with 34 (common intention) of the IPC, the Explosive Substances Act, and other stringent provisions.
The time including his detention from 1992, subsequent conviction in 1997 and six-year remission, summed up to the total number spent behind bars till 2016.