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Election code halts process of premature release of Sikh political prisoners

March 17, 2014 | By

Patiala, Punjab (March 17, 2014): The possibility of former chief minister Beant Singh’s assassins playing any role in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections by coming out of jail on premature release now seems to be bleak following the chief electoral officer issuing directions to deputy commissioners in the state regarding release of convicts.

L to R: Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Shamsher Singh

L to R: Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Shamsher Singh

It is learnt that the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Punjab had issued directions to all Deputy Commissioners (DCs) restraining them from processing prisoners’ cases for parole or permanent release in wake of model code of conduct for Lok Sabha elections.

All DCs have been asked not to release any convict on furlough or parole, who can actively or passively participate in campaigning of any political party or group or can influence voters.

Incidentally, the Sikh political prisoners – Gurmeet Singh, Shamsher Singh and Lakhwinder Singh – had moved an application with Chandigarh administration for their premature release few weeks ago.

Since the convicts belong to Patiala district, a ‘no-objection certificate’ to be issued by the Patiala administration, is a pre-requisite for release of the convicts.

As per some media reports communication of the UT administration seeking report of Patiala administration on the issue is still pending with Patiala police authorities and they might submit a report only after the model code of conduct is lifted.

It is notable that issuance of NOC is the first and crucial step, which means that the district administration would ensure that convicts do not pose any law and order problem in the area.

According to Times of India (TOI): Patiala DC G K Singh said, “We have been directed to thoroughly examine the case of applicants seeking parole or furlough. There are directions that release of any inmate who can influence voters for any political party by any means would amount to extending favour to that party or group. In view of this, the administration can send inmate on parole only if he or she is having some grave problem of acute nature.”

“About the status of application of the three convicts, I have not received any communication in this regard,” Patiala DC reportedly added.

Earlier, these three Sikh political prisoners were released on parole in December last year for the first time since their arrest in 1995 after 44-day fast observed by Sikh activist Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa.

The state government facilitated their release only after the issue took political turn and the agitation was supported by several Sikh organizations and even democratic groups of Sikh diaspora active in north America and European countries.

No bar on DC to send NOC: Advo. HS Cheema

Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema, who is also pursuing the case of these Sikh political prisoners said the election commission has barred release of inmates but there was no restriction on Patiala district administration to grant NOC for the concerned prisoners.

It is notable that Bhai Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher Singh were sentenced to imprisonment for life in Punjab CM Beant Singh’s assassination case. They have already over-severed the minimum mandatory sentence and their case of premature release was long overdue. As per applicable rules the premature release of a life term convict largely rests on the political will of the appropriate authorities after he/she had served 14 years in prison.

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