In a setback to the state government, the Kerala High Court has quashed a government order commuting the rigorous imprisonment awarded to a local Congress leader.
Disregarding the objection from the home department, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had favoured commuting the two-year rigorous imprisonment awarded to local Congress leader David Laly, a native of Thiruvananthapuram district, whose conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Judge B Kamal Pasha on Thursday asked the government to pass a reasoned order as per the law and declined to give a stay for the punishment awarded to Laly, who was convicted in 1990 in an assault case.
The court observed that the government issuing an order for commutation on behalf of the governor is not tantamount to the governor himself exercising the power vested in him.
The court expressed strong reservation to the act of the law secretary, who had mechanically recommended the commutation of the sentence. The court said on the law secretary’s recommendation, the chief minister passed the commutation order with his own hand writing and signature.
As per the prosecution, local Congress leader David Laly brutally assaulted a person named Y Georgekutty in 1987, leading to case under section 326 of IPC. A magistrate court sentenced Laly to undergo two-year rigorous imprisonment in 1990. A year later, the high court upheld the punishment. In 2012, the SC ratified the verdict of the lower court. Even without serving a single day of the punishment, Laly petitioned the state government in 2013 seeking an order to commute his sentence.
Objecting the commutation, the home department reported that “David Laly did not show any will to surrender before the court till date. It will give a wrong message to society if he is freed from the sentence imposed by the court after paying money.”
However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy overruled the objection. Granting commutation, Chandy said the sentence could be commuted after collecting a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
Early this year, Rajeev Pillai of Pathanamthitta moved the high court challenging the government order.
While quashing the commutation, the court said the delay of 26 years could not be considered as a reason for passing the order of commutation. The court held that the delay was not procedural in nature, but was caused by the apathy of the accused himself who remained a fugitive for a prolonged period.
The police wrongly reported to the government that the accused did not have any criminal case when he was facing five cases. The court also rejected the stand of the government that the medical condition of Laly was not conducive for his incarceration.