Length of the sentence or the gravity of the original crime can’t be the sole basis for refusing premature release: SC

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Satish @ Sabbe v. The State of Uttar Pradesh

Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 8326 of 2019 decided on September 30, 2020

Bench: N.V Ramana, Surya Kant, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.


The two accused Vikky and Satish were convicted for the offence of kidnapping for ransom under Section 364-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). They have been serving life imprisonment for the offence.

The petitioners filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court. The court declined to interfere with their conviction for kidnapping and did not grant leave to appeal. However, the court issued the limited notice to the respondent- State calling upon them to furnish details regarding the petitioners’ entitlement to premature release.

The plea of Satish for premature release was rejected by the State authorities on the grounds that the crime is heinous, he is hardly 53-54 years old and can repeat the crime, the informant has serious apprehensions against his release and that the governmental authorities have adversely commented upon his release considering its adverse effect on the society. The plea of Vikky is also rejected on the similar grounds of his age of 43 years, healthy physical condition, apprehensions of informant and the nature of crime.


Whether the premature release of the convict can solely be refused on the basis of length of the sentence or the gravity of original crime?


The court observed that no convict can claim remission as a matter of right. However, the circumstances are different in the present case. The perusal of the Government order displays that the statutory mandate given in Section 2 of The UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938 on premature release has been completely overlooked. The three factor evaluation of (i) antecedents (ii) conduct during incarceration and (iii) likelihood to abstain from crime given under Section 2 of the UP Prisoners Release on Probation Act, 1938 have been totally ignored by the respondent state. The refusal by the state for premature release is not based on facts or evidence.

The court while directing the release of the petitioners observed that any assessment regarding predilection to commit crime upon release must be based on antecedents as well as conduct of the prisoner while in jail, and not merely on his age or apprehensions of the victims and witnesses. The length of the sentence or the gravity of the original crime cannot be the sole basis for refusing premature release. As per the State’s own affidavit, the conduct of both petitioners has been more than satisfactory. They have no material criminal antecedents and have served almost 16 years in jail.

The court held that the balance between individual and societal welfare can be struck by granting the petitioners conditional premature release, subject to their continuing good conduct.

Reformative theory: The court emphasized on the the reformative theory and observed that it is undoubtedly true that the society has a right to lead a peaceful and fearless life, without free roaming criminals creating havoc in the lives of ordinary peace loving citizens. But equally strong is the foundation of reformative theory which propounds that a civilised society cannot be achieved only through punitive attitudes and vindictiveness. Thus, the first time offenders ought to be liberally accorded a chance to repent their past and look forward to a bright future.

The Constitution of India also embodies these reformative principles through Articles 72 and 161. Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 also streamlines such powers by laying down procedure and pre-conditions for release.

Judgements referred:


Shor v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2020 SCC Online SC 626)

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