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‘Early release’ policy gives old, dying lifers a ray of hope in UP

The 92-year-old Babu, a life convict at Naini Central Jail here, is too frail to even go to the washroom unless he is helped by others.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018 12:43:30

By Kenneth John

UP Prisons Administration and Reform Services headquarters revealed that 1,155 prisoners had died in UP jails in the past three years due to various reasons. (Representative image)

The 92-year-old Babu, a life convict at Naini Central Jail here, is too frail to even go to the washroom unless he is helped by others.

Lovingly called ‘Daddu’, he often needs much cajoling to consume his daily meals . He is treated as a child not only by his fellow inmates but also the jail staff.

Having spent nearly a quarter of a century behind bars as an undertrial and later as a convicted killer, this Hamirpur resident keeps repeating: “Bhagwan humko utha le ab (May God grant me release from the world).”

But he and others like him finally see a ray of hope as the Uttar Pradesh government has formulated a policy for the early release of elderly convicts, depending on their age and the time spent in jail. Such convicts will be released on Republic Day every year.



Then, there is Lal Singh, 90, of Malvan village in Fatehpur district. Blind and afflicted with various ailments, he has been locked up in Naini Central Jail for three decades, first as an undertrial and then as a murder convict.

He, too, can hope to spend the last days of his life at home amidst his family of four married daughters, an unmarried daughter, besides his wife Aruna, 77 and six grandchildren.

Abhilasha Singh, Lal Singh’s eldest daughter, alleged her father was implicated in a murder case in the late 1980s with four other members of the same family, including his nephew Bhagirathi Singh, 70.

“I visited him in jail in November 2017. He is on a wheelchair and could not even lift his hand to bless me. If he is released, I will take care of him. We are five sisters in all. Four of us were married off by my mother as my father never got parole to attend even our wedding. I know that he will not live long. But I will be able to take care of him in his last days. My mother also stays with me,” she said.

Scores of such life convicts, who no longer pose a threat to the society, are languishing in UP jails, contributing to the overcrowding there. Some have died due to the paucity of basic facilities, including medical treatment.

Replying to a query posed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005, the UP Prisons Administration and Reform Services headquarters revealed that 1,155 prisoners had died in UP jails in the past three years due to various reasons.

As many as 346 prisoners died in 2015, 409 prisoners in 2016 and 400 of them passed away in 2017 respectively.

However, things could soon look up for the old and the very sick convicts, serving life term in UP prisons, due to the Yogi Adityanath government coming up with permanent policy on early release of convicts.

The move comes after repeated prodding in this regard from the National Human Rights Commission and the courts, including an order of Allahabad high court dated April 4, 2018.

Principal secretary, home, Arvind Kumar on August 1 sent a copy of the new policy, spelling out the eligibility criterion as well as the process for early release of lifers, to the IG (Prisons Administration and Reform Services), UP, besides all district police chiefs and district magistrates among others.

It also lists conditions for early release of elderly convicts, depending on their age and time spent in jail.

Allahabad high court lawyers KK Roy and Charlie Prakash say the policy will end the arbitrariness in releasing convicts serving life sentences early on humanitarian grounds.

The advocate duo’s relentless pursuance of the PIL filed by one Chandrasi and others led to the court directing the state government to formulate a permanent policy on the issue on April 4, 2018. Till now, every party in power granted the early release on its own whims and fancies, it was alleged.

Deputy inspector general (Jails), Allahabad zone, BR Verma said, “It is a positive step taken by the state government. It was the need of the hour. Scores of old, infirm and seriously ill inmates, who no longer pose a threat to the society, are stuffed in jails for lack of a proper policy and now they all have hope of release. This will be a humanitarian move on the one hand. On the other hand, it will also help to deal with overcrowding in jails and the expenses that go in running them,” he added.

In Naini central jail itself, there are 3,693 prisoners against a capacity of 2,090. The number includes 12 inmates above 90 years of age, 25 in the 80-90 year age category, 124 inmates in 70-80 years’ age group and 262 are above 60 years of age.

OVERCROWDING THE BANE OF PRISON

The UP Prisons Administration and Reform Services, in a letter dated April 02, 2018 under the RTI Act, revealed extreme overcrowding in prisons in the state. In 36 jails in the state, including five central jails, 59.28 per cent more prisoners are behind bars than the original capacity. Eight of the jails had twice the number of inmates than the original capacity.

Three jails had more than three times the inmates than the original capacity. Two jails had four times the number of inmates than the original capacity.

As per the official data, against total capacity of 35,870 inmates in 36 jails of UP, including five central jails, a whopping 60,504 prisoners (59.28% more), including convicts and undertrials, are behind bars.

Eight district jails in Agra, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Aligarh, Jhansi, Rampur, Kheeri, Etawah and Bulandshahar have double the capacity of prisoners lodged in it. Three district jails situated in Mathura, Badaun and Shahjahanpur have three times the capacity of prisoners.

Further, the Lalitpur and Moradabad district jails have four times the original capacity of prisoners.

Against its capacity of a maximum of 108 prisoners, the Lalitpur district jail has 458 prison inmates, including 154 convicts and 304 under trials. The Moradabad jail having a capacity of 652 prisoners has 2905 prisoners, including 331 convicts and 2574 under trials.

The Badaun district jail, against its maximum capacity of 529 inmates, has 1782 prisoners, including 396 convicts, and 1386 undertrials. The Shahjahanpur district jail having a maximum capacity of 511 prisoners has 1642 inmates, including 526 convicts and 1116 undertrials. The Mathura district jail having a maximum capacity of 554 has 1701 inmates, including 318 convicts and 1383 undertrials.

THE POLICY

Eligibility for release

• Male convicts undergoing life imprisonment and having completed 16 years (without remission) or 20 years (with remission) of their prison term or women convicts having completed 14 years (without remission) or 16 years (with remission) of their prison term can now also be let off early if they move a mercy petition.

• Convicts undergoing life imprisonment, who have completed 70 years of age and 12 years (without remission) and 14 years (with remission). Also, convicts who have completed 80 years of age 10 years (without remission) and 12 years (with remission) in jail, including the period spent as undertrial.

• All convicts undergoing life imprisonment who have completed 20 years (without remission) and 25 years (with remission)

Prohibited category

• The policy also lists ‘prohibited category’ of convicts who will not be given benefit of this policy.

They include mass murderers (three or more killings), professional killers, terrorists and those found guilty under the POCSO Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act 1985, Official Secrets Act 1923, who will not be given the benefit of this policy.

• Those who are not Indian citizens.

• Those convicts awarded life imprisonment in more than one criminal case.

• Those who have run away from jail while undergoing life imprisonment.

• Those lifers who have been convicted of having committed a crime during their parole/home leave.

• Those convicted of waging or trying to wage war against state.

Ailments for release

The policy lists several ailments due to which a convict can be released early if he has completed 10 years (without remission) and 12 years (with remission) of his term.

The ailments include advanced bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis, incurable malignancy, incurable blood diseases, congestive heart failure, chronic epilepsy with mental degeneration, advanced leprosy with deformities and trophic ulcer, total blindness of both eyes, incurable paraplegias and hemiplegics, advanced parkinsonism, brain tumour, incurable aneurysms and irreversible kidney failure.

State level committee

The proposals forwarded in the set format through the prescribed channel will be considered by a state level committee headed by principal secretary (prison administration and reforms) and having secretary (home), IG (prisons), special secretary nominated by principal secretary (law and justice) as members of the committee. Every year, the panel will forward its recommendations for early release of life convicts by December 15 for consideration by the state government. All lifers released early under this policy will have to submit a personal bond of Rs 50,000 as guarantee of conduct as per law, post release.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 12:43:30

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