States can classify prisoners for premature release: SC

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) The Supreme Court has held that state has the power to classify convicts undergoing life imprisonment on the basis of the gravity of their offence and age, for considering their premature release.

A Bench comprising Justice S B Sinha and Justice Harjit Singh Bedi while hearing an appeal filed by the state of Haryana, challenging Punjab and Haryana High Court judgement that a state has no power to make any distinction or classification among lifers held that ''there may not be any dispute with regard to the said proposition of law. But, herein we are concerned with the rights of the respondents to be considered for remission and not what should be the criterion when the matter is taken up for grant thereof''.

''We are therefore of the opinion that the High Court might not be correct in holding that the state has no power to make any classificaction at all. A classificaction validly made would not offend Article 14 of the Constitution of India. We thus, although do not agree with all the reasoning of the High Court, sustain the judgement for the reasons stated above,'' the apex court ruled.

The state of Haryana had issued a circular in 1988 making classification of lifers based on the gravity of their offences. The circular was amended in 2002, according to which convicts whose death sentence has been reduced to life imprisonment can be considered for premature release after completion of 20 years of actual sentence while those convicted for murder can seek premature release after completition of 14 years of actual sentence and 20 years including remission.

The apex court in its judgement dated November 2 noted that every convict has a right to be considered for premature release though he is not entitled to seek his release on completion of 14 or 20 yeras of as a matter of right.

The Bench also held that an executive order cannot overrule a statutory law and the former must be in confirmity with the statute.

Convicts namely Mahender Singh and others involved in a triple murder case had sought their premature release on completion of 14 years of sentence.

UNI

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