Authorities cannot exercise clemency powers arbitrarily: SC

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (UNI) The Supreme Court today made it clear that the constitutional authorities including the President and the state Governors cannot exercise their clemency powers arbitrarily, unconstitutionally or for ulterior motives like political consideration.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran told the state of Andhra Pradesh, "All the constitutional powers ought to be exercised in accordance with law. Let the Governor exercise that power, we will see how he can act contrary to law. Why prisoners are in jails, because people should live in peace.

These orders amount to virtually wholesale release.

We know that it will be supported by all the political parties who are the beneficiaries." The court directed that the Central government should also be impleaded as party and the learned Solicitor- General of India should be present on the next day of hearing which will be in the first week of March.

The court, however, modified its earlier order and directed its stay against the premature release of prisoners shall remain confined only to the convicts undergoing life imprisonment.

However, the administration will at liberty to consider the cases of other convicts undergoing lesser sentences for grant of remission.

The court, however, made it clear that the case of a lifer cannot be considered for premature release unless and until the convict has completed 14 years of sentence.

When Andhra Pradesh government counsel Andhyarajuna tried to justify the state government order granting clemency to prisoners on the eve of Independence day last year, the Chief Justice asked, ''How can a person who has been awarded life imprisonment be released only after 6 or 7 years in jail? How can your rules be contrary to law? Do you think the committee will take an independent decision.

Death penalty has almost been abolished in the country and in murder cases mostly life imprisonment is awarded.'' The court also made it clear that whatever directions and guidelines are given by the court under the rules , committee will simply follow them.

The Supreme Court also directed the Andhra Pradesh government to respond within two weeks to the application of the petitioner Chandra Shekhar Reddy who has alleged that the state government has started keeping him under surveillance by dubbing him as a Maoist.

The court asked the state government, ''What is this happening, somebody files a PIL, next day you put him under surveillance.'' UNI AKS/SC SY RP DS1615

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