calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: In a case related to refusal of request for premature release by the convicts who have been incarcerated for more than 22 years for offence of gang rape, a single-judge bench comprising of Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya,* J.., held that State Sentence Review Board (SSRB) had failed to provide specific reasons for their decision to refuse the requests, and their concerns about the impact of the crime on society were unsubstantiated.

The Court directed the SSRB to reconsider the petitioners’ request for premature release in accordance with the observations made in the judgment and within a specified time frame. The Court also emphasized the need for a more detailed and reasoned approach to such cases in the future.


In the instant matter, the petitioners are convicted criminals who have been incarcerated for more than 22 years for committing the offence of gang rape., primarily at Baruipur Central Correctional Home. They have been intermittently granted parole without any reported issues during their releases. The petitioners have requested remission, but their requests have been repeatedly denied. Notably, one of the co-accused, was released by the Supreme Court with certain restrictions.

The SSRB considered the premature release requests for both petitioners in 2022 and 2023, and these requests were denied based on the heinous nature of the crime, the age and potentiality of the convicts, and the impact on society.

Aggrieved by the continuous refusal of their premature release requests by the SSRB, the petitioners approached the Court challenging the same.

Parties’ Contentions

The petitioners contended that these refusals are contrary to the court’s order in a previous case and rely on Supreme Court judgments to support their case. The petitioners further contended that the SSRB’s last rejection was contrary to a court order and that the primary criteria regarding the conduct of the petitioners in jail were not properly considered.

The State contended that the potential of the petitioners to commit similar crimes cannot be ruled out, given their age, and that the authorities considered the socio-economic conditions of the petitioners before rejecting their requests.

Moot Point

Whether the SSRB properly exercised its discretionary power in refusing the premature release requests of the petitioners, who are both convicts serving life imprisonment for gang rape?

Court’s Assessment

The Court found that the SSRB’s refusal to grant premature release to the petitioners was palpably bad in law as they fail to provide detailed reasons for denying the petitioners’ release requests.

The Court emphasized that reformation is a fundamental aspect of the correctional system, and age alone cannot be a reason to refuse premature release. The Court also questioned the vague reference to “socio-economic condition” as a reason for refusing release, suggesting that such a consideration should only be used if it can substantiate a risk of similar future crimes.

“The manner in which the yardsticks such as age, physical potentiality, etc. have merely been stated in a cryptic fashion, without even spelling out as to the particulars of such yardstick, such as the actual age of the victim, the actual reasons backing up the findings as to physical potentiality, association of the convicts, socio-economic condition of the convicts, etc, and enumerating specifically as to why such factor went either in favour of or against the premature release of the petitioners, cannot be sanctioned.”

The Court pointed out that even an individual in their early 40’s can have the potential for rehabilitation and reintegration. The Court highlights the need for a more comprehensive and individualized assessment of each convict’s case, including factors like age, physical potentiality, conduct during incarceration and parole, and socio-economic conditions.

The Court emphasizes that modern penal law aims at reformation and rehabilitation rather than retribution. The heinous nature of the crime alone, especially when it occurred two decades ago, should not justify continuing punishment without considering the individual’s potential for reintegration into society.

The Court cited Satish v. State of U.P., (2021) 14 SCC 580, where the Supreme Court observed that “a balance between individual and societal welfare can be struck by granting the petitioner conditional premature release subject to their continuing good conduct which would ensure that liberty of the petitioners is not curtailed nor there is any increased threat to society.”

The Court held that the authorities must provide specific and well-reasoned justifications for their decisions, rather than using vague and cryptic language. The Court also suggested that the SSRB should hold more frequent sessions, considering a smaller number of cases in each session and carefully examining the particulars of each case.

Court’s Decision

The court disposed of the case by directing the respondent to reconsider the petitioners’ requests for premature release in accordance with the court’s observations by 30-11-2023. The Court also ordered that the outcomes of such reviews be communicated not only to the petitioners but to all convicts whose cases were considered in the SSRB meeting within a week after the decisions were made. The Court warned that any repeated failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in appropriate orders in the future.

[Kanchi v. State of W.B., 2023 SCC OnLine Cal 3565, order dated 11-10-2023]

*Judgment by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Uday Sankar Chattopadhyay, Mr. Suman Sankar Chatterjee, Ms. Trisha Rakshit, Ms. Rajashree Tah, Ms. Aishwarya Datta, Counsel for the Petitioners

Mr. Somnath Ganguli, Mr. Balarko Sen, Counsel for the Respondent/State

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