Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has ruled that women convicts serving life sentence in Maharashtra jails are required to spend only 14 years unlike the male convicts, who have to be behind bars for a period ranging from 14 to 28 years depending on the nature of offence committed by them.
The ruling was delivered on March 15 by Justices Abhay Thipsay and P V Hardas, who were hearing a petition filed by Usha Upadhyay challenging the decision of the state government in respect of benefit of premature release to be given to her on the basis of guidelines framed by the Government.
"In our opinion, category 1 of 2010 guidelines, which is exclusively for women offenders, must cover all cases of women offenders and that they can be fitted only in that category. Because of creation of a special category of women offenders the other categories which are of a general nature, classified on the basis of nature of offences, would not apply to women," the Judges held while interpreting the guidelines.
"Consequently, we hold that the order dated September 4, 2012, passed by the Government of Maharashtra placing the petitioner in Category 5(b) of 1992 guidelines and Category 6(a) of 2010 guidelines, is not proper and that the petitioner may be placed in Category 1(b) of 2010 guidelines for considering her premature release", noted the judges.
"We, therefore, allow the petition by setting aside the (impugned) order dated 4 September 2012 and direct that the petitioner's case be considered in accordance with the Category 1(b) of 2010 guidelines (which provide for 14 years jail term including remissions)", the bench ruled.
The petitioner has been in prison since 10 February, 1999 and has undergone 13 years of actual imprisonment. When she was convicted, the guidelines framed in 1992 were in force but subsequently revised guidelines were framed in 2010.
The petitioner was placed in category 6(a) of 2010 guidelines which provide imprisonment for 28 years to be undergone for the purpose of premature release. Under the 1992 guidelines, the petitioner would be placed in the category 5(b) which also provides for the same period.
The petitioner made a grievance that she had been placed under a wrong category and that she is actually entitled to be placed in category 1(b) of 2010 guidelines which provide for a maximum of 14 years time spent in jail for being eligible for pre-mature release.