Published on: 28 September 2023 at 12:09 IST
The Supreme Court has expressed astonishment at the actions of the Tamil Nadu state government for causing delays in the premature release of a prisoner convicted of the murder of a BJP party member in 1997.
The Court has ordered the personal appearance of a senior state official, not below the rank of Additional Secretary. The convict had already served over 24 years in prison, and his brother had approached the Apex Court to challenge the High Court’s decision, which upheld the state’s refusal to grant him premature release.
Additionally, the Supreme Court has granted interim bail to the convict.
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia remarked, “If someone has committed an offense and has served a sentence, there should be a limit – whether it’s 23 years, 24 years, or 25 years – unless your parole policy specifies a longer duration based on the nature of the offense. In this case, that’s not the situation; he has served the minimum required period for the nature of the offense.”
Justice Kaul also expressed, “Labeling the entire Tamil Nadu region as sensitive and communal due to concerns about his return to the incident location is an attempt to give it a communal coloration. I am very surprised that the State is framing it in such terms.”
Ibrahim, the convict, had been sentenced to life imprisonment under Section 302 of the IPC and one-year rigorous imprisonment under Section 148 of the IPC. The denial of benefits was based on the Probation Officer’s report, which indicated a danger to the convict’s life.
When his brother approached the High Court, it declined to intervene, stating that concerns about Ibrahim’s safety and security were legitimate and could not be dismissed as baseless. The petitioner had argued that the convict would not return to the area in question.
After a brief hearing, the Supreme Court, in its interim order, stated, “We are dealing with a situation where the petitioner(s) was 18 years old when he was incarcerated and has now spent over 24 years in custody. As per the order dated 13.12.2022, we recorded the submission of the petitioner(s)’ counsel that the petitioner(s) was willing to undertake not to go to the area in question, as the reason cited was the petitioner(s)’ security if released prematurely.”
Continuing, the Bench noted, “We may point out that the petitioner(s), who had spent 24 years and 10 months in custody at that time, had been released on 24 occasions, and the victim’s family had also moved away from the incident site, with no known whereabouts. Merely because two families belonged to different religious beliefs, that should not be the reason to indefinitely keep the petitioner(s) in custody.”
The Court highlighted that on March 13, 2023, senior counsel for the petitioners had expressed their willingness to relocate from that area, and they invited the State to specify which areas they should avoid. Despite the Court’s inquiry, the respondent had not provided any response, nor had an affidavit been submitted.
Consequently, the Court stated that they had no alternative but to summon a senior officer, not below the rank of Additional Secretary of the Department, for the next hearing. The Court also granted interim bail to Ibrahim and scheduled the next hearing for October 30, 2023.
Case Title: Sikkander v. The State Rep. By Secretary To Govt. Of Tamil Nadu & Ors