HC calls for ‘transparency’ in functioning of SRB

HC calls for ‘transparency’ in functioning of SRB
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The Delhi High Court on Thursday said it appeared that convicts were being granted premature release on the whims and fancies of the Sentence Review Board SRB, and highlighted the need for transparency in the process

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday said it appeared that convicts were being granted premature release on the "whims and fancies" of the Sentence Review Board (SRB), and highlighted the need for "transparency" in the process.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) plea, seeking fairness and impartiality, in the functioning of SRB while dealing with the issue of premature release of convicts.

"A convict should know, why he or she, is not being released, while another was being released," the bench said, while issuing notice to the Delhi government and seeking its stand on the plea by social activist Amit Sahni, who is also a lawyer.

The court, during the hearing, said that it appeared pre-mature release "was being granted on the whims and fancies" of SRB and there was an "apprehension or likelihood" of bias against certain prisoners based on caste or religion, as alleged in the plea.

The petition has given suggestions on making the process fair, the court said and asked the Delhi government if it did not agree, then what alternatives can be put in place "to ensure transparency".

Senior advocates Sanjay Jain and Hariharan, appearing for Sahni, questioned how the SRB was dealing with the issue of premature release. They also suggested that names of convicts, who are seeking premature release, be masked with numbers so that their caste or religion is not known to the SRB and to avoid "extraneous consideration".

The petition has alleged that premature release of poor convicts was not being done in a fair and impartial manner and as per the statutory order passed by the Lieutenant Governor in 2004.

"Right to legal representation must be also given to the convict, whose cases are placed before the SRB for the purpose of consideration for premature release. Meetings of SRB must be video-graphed to ensure transparency in the working and functioning of SRB," it has said.

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