Under new Karnataka prison guidelines, life convicts in rape, multiple murder cases will be ineligible for early release – The Indian Express

The Karnataka government is drafting new guidelines for release of inmates facing life imprisonment on grounds of good behaviour after completing 14 years in jail so as to ensure that prisoners convicted of crimes against women and multiple murders are not eligible for it.
The guidelines are being drafted by the state home department following a clearance by the cabinet on July 22 on the advice of the Union Home Ministry for special remissions to prisoners in special categories to mark the 75 years of Independence.
The decision comes after the name of a man serving a life sentence for four murders appeared on the list of those looking at a possible early release.
The move by the Karnataka Prisons and Correctional Services department to consider the release of Praveen Kumar, a convict serving a life term for the 1994 murder of four members of his family in the Dakshina Kannada region of the state on the grounds of good behaviour was opposed by members of the families of the victims in August this year, forcing the state to review the matter.
Kumar was convicted for the murder of his aunt, her two children, and a grandchild at Vamanjoor in Mangalore.
“The move was initiated by prison authorities since a government order of April 21, 2020, framing the guidelines for release of life convicts after the completion of 14 years of imprisonment on the condition of good behaviour only says that “prisoners convicted of two or more murder cases” are ineligible for early release in the event of good behaviour in prison.
“The old guidelines take the number of murder cases against an individual into account. So, if a person has committed four murders and there is only one case, they are eligible for early release on good behaviour. This is what happened in the aforesaid, but new guidelines are being drafted now,” sources in the Karnataka home ministry said.
The existing guidelines for remission of life sentences in Karnataka also does not apply to convicts in crimes against women.
According to the 2020 guidelines, “prisoners convicted of two or more murder cases, gangsters, contract killers, smugglers, drug traffickers, racketeers awarded life imprisonment for murder as also the perpetrators of murder committed with pre-meditation and with exceptional violence or perversity” are not eligible to be considered for early release from life imprisonment.
Under the existing policy, life convicts are also not considered for premature release before completion of 14 years in prison if death penalty was modified, if murder involved robbery and dacoity, dowry death, attempt to murder by life convict, and in deaths under police custody.
The family members of the victims approached Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra in August this year to oppose Kumar’s release. A representative of the families, Seetharam Gurupur, stated before the home minister that it would be inappropriate to release Kumar on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day.
Kumar was sentenced to death by a trial court in 2003 and the death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court as well. In 2013, the President of India rejected his mercy plea. However, in 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence on grounds of a delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions. Since then, he has been serving a term of life imprisonment at the Hindalga prison in Belagavi.
The family members were contacted by the state officials for their opinion regarding the possible release of Kumar. Prisoners, who are near the end of their prison terms and those convicted for lesser crimes are considered for release by prison authorities around the time of Independence Day.
This year, the Union Home Ministry also advised the state government to consider special remissions to mark the 75th year of Independence. The BJP government in Karnataka held a cabinet meeting on July 22 to authorize the drafting of new guidelines for the special remissions. The cabinet resolved to also ensure through the guidelines that life convicts in cases of multiple murders and rape would not be eligible for early release.
The name of Praveen Kumar reportedly featured among 84 names shortlisted by the prison department for possible release as part of the 75th year of Independence on August 15, 2022, January 26, 2023, and August 15, 2023. The proposal was eventually dropped after the family raised objections.
“We have resolved in the cabinet that persons accused of rape and murder must not be released. The move to release Praveen Kumar was initiated much before the cabinet decision,” Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra stated after he was approached by family members of the victims.
The government of Karnataka can submit proposals for premature release of life convicts to the Governor under article 161 of the Constitution by considering age of prisoner, conduct, behaviour and performance of prisoners during the period of serving sentence as per the prison manual and after drawing up a list by following the guidelines that are issued by the state government.
Under the existing guidelines, life term convicts in cases probed by central agencies like CBI or NIA, in cases of unnatural offences, POCSO cases, SC/ST and NDPS Act cases, convicts involved in terrorist activities and convicted under TADA, POTA, UAPA, NSA, Explosive Substances Act, Official Secrets Act and Anti Hijacking Act are among those not eligible for early release by the state.
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