Shri Ram Nath Kovind,
The President of India,
New Delhi - 110 004
Subject: Appeal for intervention in ensuring the release of Bara convicts
We bring to your attention the plight of four prisoners - Nanhe Lal Mochi, Veer Kuar Paswan, Krishna Mochi and Dharmender Singh- convicted in the Bara massacre case (Bihar, 1992) having spent around two decades in jail and appeal for your immediate intervention in ensuring their release. The four prisoners belonging to extremely poor backgrounds, of which three are Dalits, were accused in the Bara caste massacre and were awarded death sentence in a trial that condoned several evidential infirmities by a TADA designated court in 2001, unfortunately upheld by the Supreme Court in 2002. The mercy petitions filed by the prisoners in 2003 did not reach the designated authorities for over ten years due to bureaucratic negligence and it was only in January 2017 the President, citing inordinate delay, commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment with no clarification on the terms of remaining sentence. Veer Kuar Paswan, and Krishna Mochi have already spent around 25 years in jail, Nanhe Lal Mochi has spent 20 and Dharmender Singh has spent 19. The four are currently lodged in Gaya Central prison.
Recently in December 2018, the Delhi High ordered the release of the convict in the infamous Tandoor case after he had spent over two decades in jail. The court while setting free the person convicted for a brutal murder opined that a person cannot be jailed indefinitely and that it infringes upon his (or her) human rights. Following the same humane principle, the Bara prisoners who have spent their entire youth in jail where they were kept under solitary confinement for years, should be granted immediate respite and the state should bear the cost of their rehabilitation.
Several mitigating factors emerge in favour of the Bara convicts. Besides the fact that the prisoners belong to the most marginalized sections of the society and some of them very old to be kept in jail, their conviction under TADA was on the basis of a flawed verdict and the Supreme Court bench that reviewed the TADA court judgement was divided in its opinion. It must also be recalled that Bara was the only case of a caste massacre in which an anti-terror law TADA was used against the accused, all belonging to the impoverished sections. The discriminatory nature of the criminal justice system is even more apparent in the fact that in other caste massacres that took place in Bihar around the same time, the perpetrators belonging to the upper castes were charged under ordinary sections of IPC and the trials over the time, have mostly resulted in acquittals. Nanhelal Mochi and Veer Kuer Paswan are in their 70s and after having borne the dehumanizing effects of solitary custody and torture, have been keeping extremely unwell in jail. Krishna Mochi now close to 65 years of age is succumbing to mental abnormalities that he developed only as a consequence of prolonged imprisonment. The three belong to landless Dalit families whose members have no wherewithal to even afford regular jail visits to see them. Dharmender Singh, ageing 55, has lost all his resources in the course of the trial and has suffered permanent damage in his legs as a result of inhuman custodial torture.
The Supreme Court in 2012 in Sangeet and Anr vs State of Haryana while stating that a convict serving life sentence is ‘expected to remain in custody till the end of his life’ had however added that the period of stay in custody would be ‘subject to any remission granted by appropriate government’. In fact, the apex court went on to stay that ‘he (the convict) certainly does have a right to have his case considered for the grant of remission’. In 2015, in Union of India vs V. Sriharan Murugan And Ors, reiterated that a prisoner cannot be denied being considered for remission. The court observed that without the possibility of remission “the prisoner would be condemned to live in the prison till the last breath... this will not be conducive to reformation of the person and will in fact push him into a dark hole without there being semblance of the light at the end of the tunnel”. The Supreme Court’s observation on the suffering of the prisoners condemned to rot in jail until death starkly reflects the reality of the Bara convicts who spent decades in jail hanging on tenterhooks waiting for a response on their mercy petitions only to be dismayed by an order of commutation for endless incarceration.
We, therefore, appeal to you to intervene to ensure the release and rehabilitation of the prisoners.
Shahana Bhattacharya and Deepika Tandon
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)