Monday, October 4, 2010

Only Wealthy Criminals Benefit From Premature Release

In Karnataka, the authorities have allegedly misused the legal right to premature release of inmates through giving this benefit to the wealthy criminals while neglecting the poor applicants.

The move by the Karnataka state governor HR Bhardwaj to stall the premature release of 594 prisoners from the state’s jails has been welcomed by the Karnataka unit of Transparency International, a global civil society anti-corruption organisation.

State chairman of the organization, headquartered in Berlin, Justice MF Saldanha said that the governor’s move would help check a deep-rooted scam.

The Yeddyurappa government recommended this year the premature release of 594 prisoners. Questions were arisen as to undeserving people were recommended while poor applicants who should have been recommended were neglected. Mr. Bhardwaj had objected over all the prisoners being released in one go on Independence Day.

The executive has been vested with premature release of prisoners on grounds of good conduct for a period of time or for exceptional productivity. The release is conventionally timed to coincide with Independence Day.

The last time such premature release happened in Karnataka was in 2006, during the chief ministership of HD Kumaraswamy when 296 prisoners were set free.

In the view of this year’s recommendation by Karnataka government for early release of the prisoners and the subsequent objection by the governor over it, the TI also smells rat in this initiative and it has submitted a petition to the governor in this regard. In a representation submitted to Mr. Bhardwaj, justice Saldanha said that he suspected that there were ‘fraudulent grounds’ for the recommendation of the state government to release the prisoners on Independence Day.

It is believed that whopping sums of money are collected for recommending release of prisoners. The applications by the poor for premature release were rejected, though they deserved it, as they could not afford the amount collected in the name of fee. According to the media reports, the prison and home department officers collect as much as Rs 5 lakh as fee for recommending release. Usual criminals and criminal gangs have to pay even more.

Some of the relatives of the inmates have accused that such pacts take place in Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature of Karnataka.

While this benefit should be given to the poor and farmers, the prosperous criminals buy their release for wealth. Suspicions have been expressed that minister and secretary level officers are involved in this racket.

A former judge, Saldanha said that the Raj Bhavan must call for the records from the minister in-charge of prisons and the home minister in respect of all applications filed by poor persons which have been rejected. That alone would let the cat out of the bag.

Mr. Saldanha also recommended the formation of a committee to scrutinise the case files of all those who have been recommended for release. “I am quite confident that 100% of them will be on the basis of large scale corruption. During the 10 years that I spent in the Karnataka high court, as many as 41 such cases came to our notice,” justice Saldanha said.

“It is also more important that not a single undeserving prisoner should be released and conversely, and more importantly, the more deserving, particularly from the poorer sections and farmers, should be afforded the benefit,” the petition said.

MS Desk

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