Thiruvananthapuram: After facing a barrage of criticism for seeking remission of prison sentences of 1,850 convicts, the government has submitted a ‘revised’ list of 740 prisoners before governor P Sathasivam.
A year after the original decision was taken (reported by TOI), the new list was prepared by a committee chaired by law secretary BG Harindranath with the ADGP (prisons), additional secretary of law department and a serving sub-judge (on deputation to the law department) as its members.
It is reliably learnt that the new list weeded out all those who have been convicted under charges of rape, attack on senior citizens, those convicted under Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, those serving term under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, hired assassins and others charged for dacoity and murder.
The committee that met on seven occasions, submitted its final recommendations to a ministerial subcommittee that included ministers from all political parties in the ruling coalition. The committee was chaired by law minister AK Balan. Ministers E Chandrasekharan, Mathew T Thomas, Kadannappally Ramachandran and Thomas Chandy (who discontinued after he lost the ministership) were the other members. The final list, approved by the ministerial subcommittee, was endorsed by the cabinet and sent to the governor for approval last month.
The revised list cited Article 161 of the Constitution under which the government has plenary powers that is not subjected to judicial review. Under the original proposal, Section 432 of the criminal procedure code was cited by the government to say that it can with or without any specific condition suspend the execution of a person or remit his/her punishment.
But, the committee chaired by the law secretary felt that the consent of the court that passed the convictions also will have to be taken in this case. It is reliably learnt that the law secretary cited the judgment of the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in Swami Shraddananda versus State of Karnataka case to recommend that the remission should be exercised under Article 161, and not under CrPC Section 432.
In the Shraddananda case judgment, the court had ruled that the right to claim remission, commutation, reprieve etc as provided under Article 72 or Article 161 of the Constitution will always be available being constitutional remedies, untouchable by court.
The original list, which included even those who were involved in the TP Chandrasekharan case, was rejected after the governor expressed serious reservations and asked the government to revise the proposal. The governor had said that the law secretary, who is one of the senior-most serving district judges in the state, was not consulted in this matter that has large implications. With revision of the list, governor’s earlier stand has been vindicated.