On Friday, the Kerala High Court quashed a 2011 government order issued by the LDF government under then-Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthananthan, allowing the early release of 209 convicts. The New Indian Express reports that LDF workers were among the 209, all of whom were convicted for murder, and that the 209 had been living as free people amongst regular society for the past 7 years.
A full bench headed by Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy, also comprising Justice K Abraham Mathew and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar, quashed the order and directed that the order stipulating their premature release be re-examined by the Governor. The re-examination of prisonersâ€™ details should be completed within 6 months. As per TNIE report, if no action is taken in this matter within 6 months, the prisoners will automatically have to return to prison to finish the remainder of their sentences.
The Governor is required to scrutinise the details of the prematurely released prisoners, and if any of them had been ineligible for premature release, the Governor must ensure that proper steps are taken to see that their full jail terms are completed. As Business Standard reports, the HCâ€™s order also stated that the conduct of the prematurely released prisoners over the last 7 years should be taken into account by the Governor during his re-examination.
This order was given by the HC while hearing a plea by the wife of a prisoner, who moved the court because her husband was not being considered for grant of pardon or remission of sentence. She raised the issue of the 209 prisoners who had been convicted under section 302 (murder) and other offences, and had been granted early release, despite, as her lawyer pointed out, life convicts only being entitled to remission if they have completed 14 years of their sentence.
In 2011, the Kerala government had released these 209 prisoners who had all completed 10 years or more of their sentences, claiming that there had been favourable reports on them from the police, probationary officers or both, and that the detention of prisoners in jails was expensive for the state.