Calcutta High Court Orders Premature Release Of Life Convicts In Absence Of Presiding Judge’s Opinion under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code
On March 29, 2023, the Calcutta High Court directed the State Government to release two life convicts who had been imprisoned for 18 years on premature release, after the government refused on the grounds that it had not received the opinion of the Presiding Judge of the court before or by which the conviction was held. In the matter of Anirudha Halder & Anr. vs. The State of West Bengal, (C.R.R 4151 of 2022), the single-judge bench of Justice Bibek Chaudhuri observed that under Section 432(2) CrPC, the opinion of the Presiding Judge of the court before or by which the conviction was held or confirmed is required.
Facts of the Case:
This case involves two convicted individuals who have filed an application seeking their early release from prison. They were found guilty of committing various criminal offences in connection with a case from 1985. The trial court had initially acquitted 58 persons and convicted six persons, including the two applicants. The applicants appealed against their conviction, but their appeal was dismissed by the High Court. They have been in prison since 2005 and are now 74 and 84 years old, respectively. They have no criminal history except for this case and claim that they were falsely implicated due to their political affiliation. They argue that they should be released early, given their age and health problems, especially since eight other convicts in the same case have already been released.
The court heard a request for early release from two convicts whose case had already been positively reviewed by the State Sentence Review Board of the West Bengal Government. However, the appropriate government did not receive the opinion of the presiding judge of the court which had held or confirmed their conviction, as is required by the law. The petitioners argued that a similar issue had been addressed in a previous case where the review board had refused a request for early release, and the court had found that the review board was not composed of the required officers and no reference was made to a court required by the law. In the current case, the court found compelling evidence that justified the request for early release, and it was deemed unfair and unjust to discriminate against the petitioners by refusing it. However, the convicts could not be released as the review board did not have the required opinion from the court that had sentenced them. The court observed that the convicts were seventy-three and eighty-four years old respectively and would be content if they could spend their last years with their families. The court allowed the request, and the Principal Secretary of Home Affairs was requested to convene a meeting of the review board within two weeks and formally order the release of the convicts.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY DIVYA SHREE GN