The Bombay High Court on Monday granted relief to a murder convict who had sought an early release from prison after finishing 14 years of her sentence, but was lumped in a category where she would have had to spend another 14 years incarcerated.
Usha Munna Upadhyay has lived out 13 years of a life term for murder, following her imprisonment on February 10, 1999. As per the state government’s 1992 guidelines for premature release, a woman committing a murder is eligible for early release after spending 14 years behind bars.
The guidelines were in force when Upadhyay was convicted. But prison authorities considered her case under the new guidelines framed in 2010, according to which she was eligible for early release only after she had finished serving 28 years in jail.
Upadhyay filed a petition in the high court, stating that she was to be placed under the category of ‘Offences relating to crime by women’, which would entitle her to an early release after 14 years. But she had mistakenly been placed under the ‘Murder for serious offences’ category (sub-clause ‘Murders committed by gangsters, contract killers, racketeers and so on’).
Considering her case, the division bench of justices PV Hardas and AM Thipsay concluded that the ‘crimes by women’ category was new for 2010, and did not exist in the 1992 guidelines. And as per a 2010 Supreme Court decision, Upadhyay was entitled to be considered under whichever guidelines were most favourable to her.
The court observed, “The provision with respect to the offences committed by a woman is a special category and the other categories are general… Since in this case, a special provision has been made with respect to the offences or crimes by women, the applicability of the other provisions of a general nature to women offenders is excluded.
” The court added, “It is not possible to take any other view of the matter in as much as, if women offenders are attempted to be fitted in other categories, the [Crimes by Women] category would be rendered totally and wholly redundant.” State authorities have now been directed to reconsider Upadhyay’s case as per the ‘Crimes by women’ category.