Exempting, suspending or reducing the sentence of persons convicted by the court cannot be set apart from fulfilling conditions pertaining to the rule of law. In all countries of the world, the president has the power to pardon a convicted person, delay the sentence or reduce it. The objective of this provision is to ensure that no one is deprived of justice.
The president has to perform such a responsibility in keeping with the principle that all are equal in the eyes of law. In the apparent eye it is the president who has the power to take such a decision, but in actuality he acts upon the recommendation of the prime minister. So when there are speculations of misuse and discriminatory application of these constitutional and legal provisions, the government comes under scrutiny. It then comes to attention that under recommendation of influential quarters within the ruling party, a handful of persons are granted special consideration by the state.
It has now been learnt that 53 criminals, including top terror Joseph, are to be pardoned and released from jail. If indeed this list has been drawn up on recommendation of certain ‘ministers and members of parliament’, questions will certainly be raised about the ethics and legality of such a decision.
Generally speaking, common criminals convicted on minor offences are granted amnesty and released on special occasions like Eid or Independence Day, on grounds of good behavior. But the news this time is alarming. The names of 53 convicts have reportedly been selected from a list of 297, based on their age, type of sentence, term, physical condition, etc. This list has been sent for vetting to the home ministry. It will then be sent on to the prime minister’s office.
We feel that a proper policy must be drawn up to ensure that the government’s powers and authority in regard to pardoning convicted persons are applied justly and appropriately. The main objective of punishment is to reform the criminal. The jails are overcrowded. Under such circumstances, persons can be released early based on equality and justice under a specific policy. But it will be most unfortunate if this is carried out simply based on recommendations of ministers and members of parliament, and on party consideration. This may instigate corruption in politics.
Prior to this, over seven thousand cases were withdrawn on grounds that these were political cases, and the accused were set free. Such instances are nothing short of contrary to the rule of law. There is no need to display such compassion for heinous criminals.