The Calcutta High Court affirmed that right under Article 21 to live a life of dignity cannot be deprived merely because a person is convicted.

The petitioner, who is the wife of a convict serving a life sentence, challenged the decision of the State Sentence Review Board (SSRB) in rejecting her application for the premature release of her husband.

A Bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya held, “The right of the petitioner under Article 21 to live a life of dignity cannot be deprived merely because the petitioner was convicted.”

Advocates Kaushik Gupta, Anirban Tarafder, Daniel Sarkar and Sahel Tusu appeared for the Petitioners and Advocates Sirsanya Bandopadhyay and Arka Kr. Nag.

The petitioner argued that the SSRB was not properly constituted. The petitioner further contended that the grounds cited for rejection by the SSRB do not align with the consistent views taken by the Supreme Court, as highlighted in the judgment of Rajo alias Rajwa alias Rajendra Mandal vs. The State of Bihar.

The petitioner's counsel relied on the Supreme Court's judgment mentioned above, which emphasized the reformative aspect of imprisonment and listed factors such as the convict's age, health, familial relationships, potential for reintegration, earned remission, post-conviction conduct, and overall development.

The Court observed that the rejection grounds lack consideration of various factors outlined by the Supreme Court, including the conduct of the petitioner during incarceration, participation in socially productive work, further education, and the overall development. The Court added, “It is well-settled that the aim of punishment in modern criminal jurisprudence is reformative and not retributive.”

The Court also questioned the reliance on a cryptic police report and highlighted the need for solid reasons to oppose the release, especially when filed by the convict's wife.

The Court directed the respondent authorities to ensure that a properly constituted SSRB reconsiders the petitioner's request for premature release within one month, taking into account the factors indicated by the Supreme Court. The Court emphasized, “The life behind bars has already been undergone by the petitioner for a considerable period. There cannot be any double punishment on the petitioner by refusing the petitioner an opportunity to reintegrate in mainstream society even if the petitioner is otherwise eligible”

The case was disposed of without any order as to cost.

Cause Title: Mahuya Chakraborty v. The State of West Bengal & Ors.

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