Convicts are humans too, must be given a chance to breathe fresh air: Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Quoting renowned poet Oscar Wilde’s words, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court recently said every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. The reference was made while converting the consecutive sentences of two convicts into concurrent.

A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Shriram Modak took into account the shift in the perception of the society towards prisoners and accordingly converted consecutive sentence of 24 and 21 years rigorous imprisonment of two youth. The bench said these sentences of the youngster will now run concurrently.

The bench said, “In older days, a person coming in conflict with the law was considered as a criminal. It was true, pending trial and even afterwards, the society looked at such persons with some bad motive. After passage of time and modernisation, there is a shift in manner of treating prisoners. The prisoner is considered as a human being and there is a focus on circumstances compelling him to contravene the law.”

The bench further said that nowadays the main focus is on rehabilitation of such prisoners. The bench was seized with writ petitions filed by two youngsters challenging the orders of a trial court. The youth were convicted in eight different cases of robbery of ornaments and were accordingly sentenced to suffer three years in prison for each offence.

Thus, making the youngsters to spent a total of 24 years and 21 years behind the bars.  Taking note of their young age, the HC bench said, “We admit that both these petitioners have robbed the individuals by way of committing profession only. They must have done it for earning. They have adopted the wrong mode.”

“But, they must have now realised that they got nothing except incarceration and losing the company of family and society. The petitioners are aged about 21 and 23 years, so, when they will come out of jail (in the year 2040 & 2037), they will be 45 years old.

This factor perturbed us more,” the order authored by Justice Modak, reads. The bench further said it does not want the young age of petitioners to be spoilt by keeping them in jail. “This court is required to deal with these issues from a broader perspective. There is a shift in focus to deal with rights of convicted accused persons.

They still continue to be human being. The focus is to give them an opportunity to meet relatives and to breathe fresh air,” the bench said. While converting their sentences from consecutive to concurrent, the bench directed the Registrar (Judicial) to circulate this judgment amongst all Judges in Maharashtra to sensitise them on punishment policy.

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