The Allahabad High Court has directed release of a murder convict who served 26 years of his life imprisonment, out of which 22 years in a mental hospital for treatment. The convict is still undergoing treatment and is in a critical condition. Expressing deep anguish over the delay in disposal of the convict’s appeal, the court, while upholding the conviction, confined his life imprisonment to only 20 years, which he has already undergone.
Pronouncing the verdict on Monday, a division bench comprising Justices Mahendra Dayal and Dinesh Kumar Singh deprecated the conduct of the defense as well as the government lawyer in not providing proper assistance in disposal of the old appeal.
“There has been virtually no assistance either from the counsel representing the accused or the State. The Court has to help itself in deciding the appeal virtually without any assistance,” the Lucknow bench of the court observed.
The bench observed, “Who all are parts of the justice delivery system must bear in mind that justice delayed is justice denied. The most important fundamental right of life and liberty guaranteed under our Constitution is denied if a person is in jail without finality attached to the sentence.”
The sessions judge at Sultanpur had convicted Nageshwar Singh on August 24, 1982, for murdering his five-year-old nephew on December 19, 1981, as the deceased’s father Bindeshwari Singh was not ready to arrived at a compromise in a civil dispute with two villagers whom the accused was supporting.
While holding Nageshwar guilty under section 302 (murder) of IPC, the sessions judge had awarded him life imprisonment.
Nageshwar filed an appeal in the high court against the judgement of the sessions judge and on September 3, 1982, the high court admitted the appeal for final hearing and also allowed his bail plea.
But Nageshwar could not file sureties and bail bond for 11 years and when after 11 years he filed the same, even then he was not released from jail for the reasons not decipherable from record.
The appellant suffered from mental problems and hence was sent from Central Prison, Naini, Allahabad, to Mental Hospital, Varanasi on February 24, 1986.
Ironically, the appellant was released on bail only on March 9, 2007 despite the bail order of September 3, 1982.
In the high court, as his lawyer did not appear to argue on his appeal finally, the bench issued non-bailable warrant (NBW) against him on December 2, 2015, following which the police arrested him on February 15, 2016, and put him in Sultanpur district jail.
Later, the appellant was again sent to a mental hospital in Varanasi on March 15, 2017, where he is in a critical condition.
In view of his serious condition, that the superintendent of Sultanpur district jail wrote to his two sons on May 18, 2017, requesting them to come to the hospital to look after their ailing father in order to provide assistance in administration of treatment.
Considering the entire circumstances, the bench took strong note of the unprofessionalism of the defense as well as the government lawyer for unnecessarily delaying the disposal of the appeal and diluted the amount of punishment of life imprisonment restricting it to be only 26 years as already undergone.