Monday, 6 July, 2009

State wants Khalistan terrorist to stay behind bars for 50 yrs


State wants Khalistan terrorist to stay behind bars for 50 yrs
Nishan Singh Jaimal Singh Sohel was just a teenager when he was arrested by the Maharashtra police in December 1991 for terrorist activities. Now if the state government has its way, Sohel will not be walking free for another 33 years or till he attains the age of 65.
Sohel, who operated for the Khalistan Commando Force in the state, has since been in prison — first as an undertrial and later as a convict following a life sentence awarded by a designated TADA court in March 1997. The police had recovered explosives, AK-47 rifles, detonators, grenades and magazines from him.
The state government had, in a letter to the Inspector General of Prisons in September 2006, stated that “it is clear that the convict and his co-accused have committed murder with the use of weapons/explosives for the cause of Khalistan”.
“Considering the seriousness of the crime and its social implications, the convict's political philosophy and the premeditated manner in which the offences have been committed, like wise taking into account the present age (31), your recommendation to release him prematurely as per his 14-year report is rejected,” Avinash Sable, Under Secretary to the Home Department, had stated.
He also stated that the government will consider his premature release only after he undergoes a minimum 50 years of actual imprisonment or on completion of 65 years of age.
Sohel had earlier moved the Bombay High Court, seeking premature release. However, the court dismissed the petition as infructuous after the government produced the letter from the Home Department.
He moved the high court again last year, seeking premature release on grounds that he has already served 17 years of actual imprisonment and 23 years of imprisonment with remissions. He contended that the government’s order is violative of the 1992 guidelines, which form the basis for consideration of cases for premature release of life convicts.
When the case came up for hearing, the state government produced a similar letter, dated April 20, which said that Sohel has to undergo at least 50 years of actual imprisonment or attain the age of 65 years in view of the amended guidelines of December 18, 2008. As per this, the state has powers to expand the sentence without the consent of the convict on grounds that if the convict is released, he might commit similar offences.
The letter said there are no specific guidelines for premature release to deal with cases involving terrorist acts. The court adjourned the case till July 8 for the state to produce an order regarding their stand so that, if need be, the petitioner can challenge the same.
Sohel, who hails from Haryana, and accomplice Ravindrasingh were convicted after it was established that they had joined one Padamsingh, the area commander for Maharashtra, in creating terror by way of bomb blasts in trains and public places. They raised funds by looting the rich and business firms and got their supply of ammunition and explosives from Punjab. While the two were convicted to life, another accused Hardeep Singh was acquitted.
According to senior criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, a life sentence means the person is liable to spend all his life in prison as per the latest Supreme Court judgment. He, however, said he has not come across any case in which the state is seeking to keep a convict in prison till he is 65 years of age.

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