A rape and murder convict’s plea for freedom based on sole ground revolving around a ‘comma’ in the policy on premature release of life convicts has been turned down by Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court ruled that ‘murder after rape’ falls under that category of heinous crimes for which the convicts must complete at least 20 years actual sentence in accordance with the Haryana state’s policy before being considered for the premature release. It junked the convict’s plea that argued that the 20-year sentence condition was for “murder after rape repeated”, and not for “murder after rape”.
The 16-year-old government policy presented before the court, and also available on the Haryana Prisons department website, says that anyone convicted for “murder after rape repeated/chained rape/unnatural offences” may be considered for premature release after 20 years actual sentence and 25 years total sentence with remission. But Justice Kuldip Singh in the verdict has said, “The perusal of the said Clause shows that apparently, a ‘comma’ is missing after the word ‘rape’, between the word used after ‘murder after rape’ and ‘repeated/chained rape/un-natural offences’.”
In the case dating back to April 2001, Pawan Kumar in 2003 was convicted by a Karnal Sessions Court for rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl and was sentence d to imprisonment for life. After a brutal rape was committed by the accused, the minor was killed and her body was thrown into a canal “for causing disappearance of evidence”.
His counsel in the court argued that Kumar has already undergone an actual imprisonment of more than 16 years and must be released in accordance with the policy for those convicts who cases can be considered after completing the actual sentence of 14 years. His submission also was that according to the same policy only those convicts who have committed “repeated rape” are to be considered after 20 years actual imprisonment.
Even though the policy placed the court does not clearly say so, the state in its response to Kumar’s petition said that the ‘murder after rape’ comes under those heinous crimes for which 20 years actual sentence must be completed first before being considered for premature release. Prior to passing of the verdict, the court asked the state to produce a legible copy of the policy.
“The deceased in this case after the rape was murdered. The deceased was only 13 years of age. Therefore, the case of the petitioner is covered under Clause 2aa(1) of the policy of the State of Haryana dated 12.04.2002. As such, the case of the petitioner could be considered for premature release after completion of 20 years of actual sentence and with remission 25 years,” the judgment reads.