In a notable pronouncement, the Calcutta High Court emphasized the enduring "right of an individual to live a life of dignity," asserting that it cannot be negated merely due to a past conviction. Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, presiding as a single judge, directed the West Bengal State Sentence Review Board (WBSSRB) to reassess a woman's plea for the premature release of her husband.
In the January 5 order, Justice Bhattacharyya underscored the petitioner's husband's two-decade-long incarceration, stating, "He has spent a considerable period behind bars. There cannot be any double punishment on the petitioner by refusing to reintegrate her husband in mainstream society even if he is otherwise eligible."
The plea contested the WBSSRB's denial of premature release, citing improper constitution of the decision-making committee and non-consideration of Supreme Court precedents. The petitioner highlighted the Supreme Court's consistent stance that imprisonment aims at reforming offenders after a significant punishment period.
Justice Bhattacharyya echoed this view, emphasizing that modern criminal jurisprudence prioritizes the reformative goal over retribution. The Court criticized the WBSSRB for failing to seek a report on the convict's conduct in prison and his present behavior, essential factors in premature release evaluations.
Acknowledging the improper constitution of the WBSSRB, Justice Bhattacharyya mandated a thorough reconsideration of the premature release request by a properly constituted Board. The Court, in disposing of the petition, directed the WBSSRB to undertake this review, ensuring adherence to principles of justice and individual dignity. This decision highlights the judiciary's commitment to balancing the punitive aspects of imprisonment with the imperative of rehabilitation and societal reintegration.
Author: Anushka Taraniya
News Writer, MIT ADT University