New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday disapproved of Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik's discretion in ordering premature release of a murder convict from Gorakhpur.
A bench of Justices NV Ramana and MM Shantanagoudar observed that such cases "shock the conscience of the court", compelling it to overturn the decision taken by the Governor.
"How can such convicts be released prematurely? He was given life term but he has served only seven years in jail. We are bound to intervene when cases shock the conscience of this court. We have to exercise our powers," remarked the bench.
While dismissing the plea filed by Markandey Shahi, the court expressed surprise that the Governor had exercised his constitutional power to free a person who has been convicted for four murders and has serious criminal antecedents.
"Not just this, he has been granted pardon while the appeal against his conviction was already pending before the High Court. We don't know why should this be done? We don't want to say anything more," lamented the bench.
Appearing for Shahi, senior lawyer Amarendra Sharan submitted that the Governor was not required to give reasons before exercising his power but the top court remained unimpressed.
"When this man was out on bail, he indulged in four other criminal cases. Out of life sentence, he has served only seven years. How can such a man be released premature. We will rather grant leave in this case so that this appeal will come after 10 years and you will remain behind the bars till then," retorted the bench.
Sharan also said that his client was suffering from various ailments.
"What is he suffering from? Back pain? Let him be in jail and they will give him all the treatment required. We don't want to say more because that will impact your pending appeal as well," responded the court, dismissing Shahi's appeal.
In September 2017, Naik had granted remission to Shahi even before he could serve 14 years in jail after his conviction by a Gorakhpur trial court in 2009.
Shahi, now 62, along with over a dozen others, had committed these murders in 1987 over political rivalry when Purvanchal was in the grip of musclemen politicians Harishankar Tiwari and Virendra Pratap Shahi. The place of crime now falls under district Maharajganj.
Although the SSP of the concerned area and the district magistrate did not recommend Shahi's premature release in the interest of justice for the victims' families and peace in the area, Naik exercised his power under Article 161 of the Constitution to free him.
Mahant Shankersan Ramanuj Dass challenged the Governor's order in the Allahabad High Court. He claimed that Shahi was being favoured by the Yogi Adityanath government and hence a report was managed to enable Naik to order his premature release.
The Uttar Pradesh government, in the High Court, supported the Governor's order, saying exercise of the constitutional power was valid.
In September, the High Court allowed this appeal and set aside the Governor's order as being improper and without application of mind. It ordered police to take Shahi back in custody while his appeal could be heard in due course.