The delay in senior Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s release from jail, in accordance with the Central Government’s policy of Azadi Ka Mahotsav Celebrations Remission for prisoners, has triggered a huge controversy.
According to the Centre’s new remission policy, any prisoner sentenced to not more than one year in jail, having good conduct, and on completion of 66 percent of his jail term needed to be released on January 26, 2023. Navjot Sidhu met all the conditions of the policy but was not released.
Inquiries by indianarrative.com reveal that the 6-member State Remission Committee – comprising an IAS officer, Advocate General, Legal Remembrancer, Director Prosecution, and ADGP Jails – after considering the recommendation of the Jail Department, in mid-December 2022, recommended to the Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to release Navjot Sidhu and several others on January 26 for the Republic Day celebrations. Mann also holds the Jail portfolio.
CM Mann, is required to take the consent of the Cabinet of Ministers before sending the remission cases to the Governor for final orders. The CM cleared select remission files of 5 prisoners for release and placed them before the Cabinet. But, he did not clear the file of Navjot Sidhu and a few others. Sidhu could not be released on January 26, 2023, much to the chagrin of party workers who made elaborate arrangements to welcome their leader.
Sources in the CM’s office reveal that the file is still under the “active consideration” of Bhagwant Mann. When asked if there were any legal or administrative weaknesses in the recommendation made by the State Remission Committee, sources said, “there are, evidently, no shortcomings, but it is the discretion of the CM to decide the timing of signing any file.”
As per procedure, the remission cases, after having been moved by the Superintendent of Jail, go to the head of the Department. He then forwards them to the minister in charge. The matter goes before the Cabinet. After clearance by the Cabinet, it goes to the Governor, and then the formal premature release orders are issued for the release of a prisoner.
A retired IAS officer explains that if the CM wants to reject the recommendations of the State Remission Committee, he is required to give reasons for such a decision to avoid any legal infirmity.
Many in Congress feel that as there is no weakness in the recommendations of the Committee, CM Mann has now unethically kept the file “under consideration.” It is clear that the CM aims to keep Sidhu in jail for more time by neither rejecting nor approving the recommendation, Sidhu’s supporters say.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)