Victims need not be heard before releasing convicts: HC

‘It will be sufficient if written representations are considered’

Courts cannot injunct an Advisory Board from considering premature release of convicts just because victims of crime insist on giving them a personal/oral hearing to oppose the release on the ground of threat to their lives if the convicts were let free, the Madras High Court has held.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said personal/oral hearing had neither been explicitly contemplated nor it could be read into the rules relating to premature release. Hence, it would be sufficient if written representations were considered.

The first Division Bench vacated an interim injunction granted by another Bench on February 6, 2019, restraining the Advisory Board in Puducherry from considering the premature release of life convicts Venkatesh alias Dhanasekar, Sathish, Narayanan, Madhan and Sankar alias Jai Shankar.

The convicts were part of a 16-member gang which had hurled countrymade bombs on the Mudaliarpet police station campus in the Union Territory in broad daylight and murdered a rival gang member Kumar alias J. Jayakumar, besides injuring two constables in 2004.

Subsequently, an attempt was made to kill Jayakumar’s brothers, Thulasi alias J. Iyappan and J. Manikandan, by hurling bombs but the duo escaped, leading to registration of a case for attempt to murder. In another attempt, the trio’s father, Subbu alias Jayaraman, got killed in 2009. An eyewitness to Jayakumar’s death was also done to death in 2010. Citing all these instances, Jayakumar’s mother J. Dhanasekari and brothers Iyappan and Manikandan feared they would also be killed if the life convicts were released prematurely.

The woman and her two sons insisted that they must be given an opportunity for personal/oral hearing before the Advisory Board to oppose the release. Rejecting their plea, the Chief Justice said: “In order to claim a right of hearing, one may have to demonstrate prejudice or likelihood thereof.”

The scales of opportunity to be offered to the convict and the victim have to be evenly balanced. When convicts have no right to seek a personal/oral hearing before the Advisory Board, such an opportunity could not be given to victims of crime too, the first Bench added.

“The remission to be considered is a discretion to be exercised as per some settled parameters and not as a routine exercise… This consideration is not akin to adversarial proceedings where the presence of two or more sides may require a dialogue or a hearing,” the court said.

The judges closed the case with the hope and trust that the Advisory Board would take into consideration all materials, including the written objections made by the victim family, before arriving at an objective conclusion on releasing the life convicts.

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