Lucknow: The Allahabad High Court has directed the release of a murder convict who served 26 years of his life imprisonment, of which 22 years was in a mental hospital.
The convict is still undergoing treatment and is in a critical condition.
Expressing deep anguish over the delay in disposal of the convict's appeal, the court, while upholding the conviction, confined his life imprisonment to only 20 years, which he has already undergone. Pronouncing the verdict on Monday, a division bench comprising Justices Mahendra Dayal and Dinesh Kumar Singh deprecated the conduct of the defence as well as the government lawyer in not providing proper assistance in disposal of the old appeal. "There has been virtually no assistance either from the counsel representing the accused or the state. The court has to help itself in deciding the appeal virtually without any assistance," the Lucknow bench of the court observed. The bench further observed, "Who all are parts of the justice delivery system must bear in mind that justice delayed is justice denied. The most important fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under our Constitution is denied if a person is in jail without finality attached to the sentence."
A sessions court at Sultanpur had convicted Nageshwar Singh on August 24, 1982, for murdering his five-year-old nephew on December 19, 1981. Nageshwar filed an appeal in the high court against the judgement of the sessions judge and on September 3, 1982, the high court admitted the appeal for final hearing and also allowed his bail plea. But Nageshwar could not file sureties and bail bond for 11 years and when after 11 years he filed the same, even then he was not released from jail for reasons not decipherable from records.
The appellant suffered from mental problems and was sent from Central Prison, Allahabad, to Mental Hospital, Varanasi, on February 24, 1986.
Ironically, the appellant was released on bail only on March 9, 2007, despite the bail order of September 3, 1982.
In the high court, as his lawyer did not appear to argue, the bench issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against him on December 2, 2015, following which the police arrested him on February 15, 2016, and put him in Sultanpur district jail.
Later, the appellant was again sent to the hospital in Varanasi on March 15 where he is in a critical condition.
In view of his serious condition, the superintendent of Sultanpur district jail wrote to his sons on May 18, requesting them to come and look after their ailing father.
Considering the circumstances, the bench took a strong note of the unprofessionalism of the defence as well as of the government lawyer for unnecessarily delaying the disposal of the appeal.