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Kerala government faces backlash over commuting prison sentence

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-03-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: Some media organisations in Kerala reported on Thursday that they had accessed documents showing the Left Democratic Front government recommended commuting of sentences of some ‘notorious’ prisoners, including a group convicted for the murder of communist rebel T P Chandrashekaran.

The government had recommended the commuting of sentences of almost 2,000 prisoners to the governor as part of the 60th formation year of the state on 1 November.

Governor P Sathasivam, returned the government’s list in February, seeking more clarity.

On Thursday evening, Sheela Rani, Kerala’s additional chief secretary (home), clarified that the 11 persons convicted for Chandrasekharan’s murder and Mohammed Nisham, a billionaire serving life term for killing his security guard, were not on the list sent to the governor.

The prisons department had submitted a list of 1,911 people but the government had dropped 61 names and forwarded a list of 1850, she told regional news channel Media One.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said in the state assembly in February that the government did not favour the early release of Chandrashekaran’s killers and other prisoners convicted of brutal crimes. He, however, said he did not remember the details or names of prisoners on the list.

Other ruling party members had said such a move would have no legal backing as it would go against the Supreme Court’s directives.

Regional media on Thursday cited documents accessed under the Right to Information Act, which were reviewed by Mint, to report that the public information officer at the jail headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram had confirmed that the list included 11 persons convicted for Chandrasekharan’s murder and Mohammed Nisham.

Vijayan, who handles the home portfolio, has not commented on the issue so far. His mobile phone was switched off on Thursday.

Director general of police (prisons) R Sreelekha had in February issued an official statement denying that there was any plan for the early release of the people named in the news reports. She was not immediately available for comment.

“This proves Pinarayi Vijayan misled the assembly, we will complaint against him to the Governor,” said Ramesh Chennithala, opposition leader of the house, over telephone.

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