29 May 2010

Nalini not to be released prematurely: High Court

Rejecting the petition filed by Nalini praying for early release from prison, the Madras High Court did not allow the convict in the case of assassination of former Prime Minister of India, Sri Rajiv Gandhi to be released. Noting that she had already received the benefit of commutation of sentence from the Governor of Tamil Nadu where the death punishment awarded to her was reduced to one of life imprisonment, the High Court held that the case of Nalini was not fit for being considered for remission of sentence given the facts and circumstances relating to the offence committed by her.

In making this decision, the High Court made some interesting observations, as under;

  • In the case of heinous, brutal and barbaric assassination of former Prime Minister of India, wherein the present appellant is a convict prisoner, undergoing life sentence, the SIT has investigated a crime that was cunning in conception, meticulous in planning and ruthless in execution and the SIT has carried out a tremendous job with its meticulous investigation which was able to unearth the mystery from some slender clues. When the offence proved against the appellant is that of a higher magnitude rather sending shocking waves throughout the world as by such inhuman and barbaric act, the appellant and the other co-accused have taken away the life of a former Prime Minister of India, resulting in the specialised investigating team to take over the case, this argument advanced on the part of the appellant needs only to be rejected. [para 30]
  • Coming to the other ground urged by the appellant that the classification introduced by the impugned G.O., among the life convicts viz. those life convicts falling under Section 435 Criminal Procedure Code and those who do not fall under the said Section, by the Governor, while exercising powers under Article 161 of the Constitution is arbitrary, discriminatory, unfair and unreasonable and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as has already been observed by us supra, the appellant is a convict prisoner in a case of doing away the life of a former Prime Minister of India, in a barbaric manner of plotting human bombs and taking away the life of many others. It must be borne in mind that branding the case as one falling under the category of 'rarest of rare', originally death sentence was awarded to the appellant, which was later on commuted to one of life imprisonment, which seems to be purely on humanitarian grounds. Such commutation of death sentence to one of life imprisonment does not in any manner reduce the gravity of the offence proved to be involved by the appellant. That being so, in terms of the judgment of the Honourable Apex Court in Sadu Singh's case (1984 SCC (Cri) 241), she constitute a distinct class and cannot claim equality with those sentenced to life imprisonment' and the gravity of an offence and the quantum of sentence prescribed in the Code could be a reasonable basis for a valid classification if the object of such classification is to grant or not to grant remission. If all the prisoners, irrespective of the gravity of the offences for which they are convicted are classified and considered similarly, it will have serious repercussions on the safety and security of the society besides shaking the foundation of the entire criminal justice system of awarding appropriate quantum of sentence depending on the nature of the offence proved to be committed by the accused. Therefore, the classification incorporated by the Government in the impugned G.O. among the life convicts falling within and outside the ambit of Section 435 Cr.P.C., is a reasonable classification, which the Government is empowered to bring in to uphold the majesty and to meet the real ends of justice. Therefore, this classification cannot at all be branded as arbitrary or discriminatory or unfair or even unreasonable, so as to say and hold that it violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. [para 31]

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