Rotting behind bars even after completion of their life sentences,some inmates in jails of Punjab have lost their mental balance and are thus unable to submit applications seeking release.
This is the stand jail authorities has taken to justify why convicts are still rotting in jails even though they have completed their sentences. This startling reply was given by Amritsar jail authorities to Legal Services Authority of Punjab and Haryana,which had sought information from Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh regarding convicts who even after completing their life sentences (14 years) are yet to be released.
Sample this: There are 94 such convicts in Punjab,76 in Haryana and seven in Chandigarh. Many of these convicts are languishing in jails for over two decades,some even for over 24 years.
The reason: In some cases,the states are yet to decide on the fate of applications of convicts seeking release. In other cases,the deputy commissioners of the areas where the convicts hail from are yet to confirm that the convicts belong to the said areas. Surprisingly,in some cases,the states have rejected applications seeking release,without giving any reason whatsoever.
The information gathered also shows the arbitrariness of states when it comes to releasing the convicts. While in certain cases,a convict awarded life imprisonment has been released even before completion of 14 years,in others,they were not even granted parole. The convicts,in letters to high court judges,have alleged that those who have political influence managed premature release while others having no godfather are made to suffer.
This has emerged from the voluminuous information gathered by the High Court Legal Services Authority,for over a period of four months,from jails of Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh. The information was gathered after Punjab and Haryana High Court judges,during an inspection of jails,were apprised of the condition of such convicts. Many inmates have also personally met judges and written to them.
After two high court judges took serious note of the matter,it was decided that the High Court Legal Services Authority would take up the matter and contest for the rights of these convicts.
In reply,the authorities of Amritsar Central Jail have spoken about three mentally unstable convicts. According to them,since these convicts are mentally retarded,there is none who can take up their case for release.
These three convicts are Karnail Singh (in jail for over 17
years and eight months),Satpal (15 years) and Budhu (20 years and two months). All three were awarded life imprisonment in cases of murder.
According to information,the Legal Services Authority will take up the issue and request the high court to direct Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh to frame policies for release of such convicts. A significant legal issue of whether to allow release of convicts who have been awarded lifers will also be taken up by the Authority. Moreover,a policy to take up cases of mentally unstable convicts will be decided.
The state governments need to frame policies for such mentally unstable convicts. They cannot be made to rot if they have lost their mental balance during incarceration. That there is nobody to take up their case cannot be an excuse, said a senior member of the Authority.
Assigning no reason while turning down a convicts application for release makes it difficult for him to approach a court. For,in absence of any cogent reason even the courts find it difficult ordering his release, the official added.