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Amend Laws to fix life term duration – High Court verdict in Bhai Lal Singh & Bhai Major Singh’s case

September 1, 2012 | By

Bhai Lal Singh & Bhai Major Singh (Maximum Security Jail, Nabha)

Bhai Lal Singh & Bhai Major Singh (Maximum Security Jail, Nabha)

Chandigarh (September 01, 2012): According to a news report published in September 01, 2012 issue of The Tribune, Daily newspaper published from Chandigarh, it is said that “in a historic judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that indefinite life imprisonment to a convict is worse than the death sentence. The life sentence should not be interpreted to mean lifelong incarceration, it added. Justice Paramjeet Singh has also called upon the legislature to carry out necessary amendments in the law so as to make the prisoners aware of the duration of their jail sentence”.

The judgment is significant as it marks a departure fromthe oft-taken stand by state governments that life sentence means imprisonment till the prisoner’s death.

The judgment, in the cases of two TADA convicts, comes less than two years after a Division Bench directed that militant Jagtar Singh Hawara “shall not be released from the prison for the rest of his life” in former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.

Pronouncing the sentence, the Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Arvind Kumar had relied upon the judgment in the case of Swamy Shraddananda, alias Murali Manohar Mishra, versus State of Karnataka.

TADA Cases

The latest judgment came on a bunch of two petitions “Lal Singh versus State of Gujarat” and “Major Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh”. In the case against Lal Singh, 21 accused were tried jointly by the trial court on the allegations that they, along with 13 absconding accused and some unidentified Sikh militants, hatched a conspiracy in India and abroad for subversive and terrorist activities for facilitating creation of Khalistan and liberation of Jammu & Kashmir by violent means between September 1990 and July 1992.

They brought arms to India and created an organisation in Lahore for achieving liberation of Kashmir and creation of Khalistan. They also conspired with some absconders to conduct terror strikes for eliminating BJP and Hindu leaders, besides police officers.

Justice Paramjeet Singh noticed: “The only allegation is regarding conspiracy etc. and recovery of some arms. There is no allegation against petitioner Lal Singh that he committed any murder or any such act”. Convicted by a court in Ahmedabad under the TADA Act and sentenced to life imprisonment, Lal Singh was transferred to a prison in Punjab. Major Singh was also convicted by a court in Pilibhit under the TADA Act and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life. He was also transferred to a prison in Punjab.

In both cases, the Punjab Government’s advisory board had recommended to the states of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh for the premature release of the petitioners. But, the recommendations were not accepted.

Landmark Verdict

Justice Paramjeet Singh ruled that the argument of the counsel for the Government of Gujarat that life imprisonment meant imprisonment for the entire natural life of the prisoner was against the provisions of the Constitution and the International Human Rights Documents and would amount to arbitrary exercise of power.

“I have no doubt that indeterminate life imprisonment and non-release of a convict-prisoner is a worse sanction than the death sentence, and an encroachment upon the life and personal liberty.

“A barbaric crime does not have to be met with a barbaric penalty, which may upset the mental balance of a person who may realise that he will never be out of prison. The reasonable determination period of imprisonment with regard to offences where life imprisonment is provided is a necessity and calls for appropriate amendment for prescribing determinate punishment keeping in view the gravity of the offence. “This Court feels it is the primary obligation of the legislature to carry out necessary amendments … to make aware the convict/prisoner how much period he has to undergo in prison.

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