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Special Remission to Prisoners

Context:

The Union Home Ministry issued a set of guidelines to the States and the Union Territories on the grant of special remission to prisoners to commemorate the 75th year of Independence.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About  the grant of special remission
  3. President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72
  4. Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161
  5. Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President
Details:
  • As part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, the decision was made.
  • A given set of prisoners would be allowed special remission, and they would be released in three stages.

About the grant of special remission:

  • The prisoners who would qualify for premature release under the scheme are:
    • Women and transgender convicts of ages 50 and above
    • Male convicts of 60 and above who have completed 50% of their total sentence period without counting the period of general remission earned
    • Physically challenged or disabled convicts with 70% disability and more who have completed 50% of their total sentence period
    • Terminally ill convicts
    • Convicted prisoners who have completed two-thirds (66%) of their total sentence
    • Poor or indigent prisoners who have completed their sentence but are still in jail due to non-payment of fine imposed on them by waiving off the fine
    • Persons who committed an offence at a young age (18-21) and with no other criminal involvement or case against them and who have completed 50% of their sentence period would also be eligible for the remission
Following persons would not be eligible for the grant of special remission:
  • Persons convicted with death sentence or where death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment or persons convicted for an offence for which punishment of death has been specified as one of the punishments
  • Persons convicted with sentence of life imprisonment
  • Convicts involved in terrorist activities or persons convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Act, 1985, Prevention of Terrorist Act, 2002, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Explosives Act, 1908, National Security Act, 1982, Official Secrets Act, 1923, and Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016

President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72

  • Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.
Important Points regarding Pardoning power of the President of India
  • The President cannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government.
  • In several cases, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers while deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994.
  • Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article74 (1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once. If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.

Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161

Similar to the Pardoning Power of the President, pardoning power of the Governor grants the following:

  • Pardon
  • Respite
  • Remission
  • Reprieve
  • Commute

Article 161:

The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

Types of Pardon’s by the Governor

Pardon

  • When the Governor pardons, both the sentence and the conviction of the convict completely absolve the sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the punishment by court-martial.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the death sentence which only the Indian President can do.

Respite

  • When the Governor uses his pardoning power of ‘Respite’, he chooses to award a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded to the convict.
  • For example, due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender, the President can use this power.

Reprieve

  • When the Governor chooses the pardoning power of ‘Reprieve’; he stays the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period.
  • By doing this, he enables the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from him.

Remit   

  • When the President chooses the pardoning power of Remit, he acts to reduce the period of the sentence but the character of the sentence remains the same.
  • For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year but the imprisonment remains rigorous.

Commute

  • Governor can commute the punishment or sentence of any person convicted of any offence against a state law or he can commute a death sentence.

Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President

PARDONNING POWER OF THE PRESIDENTPARDONING POWER OF THE GOVERNOR
He can pardon a sentence of the convict given by the court-martial or the military courtGovernor does not have the power to pardon the sentence inflicted by the court-martial on the convict
The President can also pardon the death sentence through commutation or in its entirety.Governor cannot pardon the death sentence even if the said sentence has been prescribed under the state law. However, he can suspend, remit or commute the death sentence by using these pardoning powers.
His pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a Union lawHis pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a state law

Hence, the scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161

-Source: The Hindu


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