1999 Graham Staines murder case: SC issues notice in convict's plea for premature release

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The convict has relied upon the top court's order in AG Perarivalan's plea, an accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, whose death sentence was earlier commuted to life term, and was later directed to be released

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Odisha government on a plea filed by Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh for remission in a case related to killing of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons in 1999.

A bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and SVN Bhatti has sought a response from the state government and put up the matter for hearing after six weeks.

Singh's counsel Vishnu Shankar Jain told court that he had already served more than 24 years in jail. 

Court has been told the petitioner, resident of District Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh and lodged in Keonjhar district jail Odisha, is about 61 years of age and has already undergone more than the qualified period, which is 14 years of sentence as stipulated in policy of the state government dated April 19, 2022. 

“The petitioner has served more than 24 years of actual imprisonment (without remission). It is noteworthy that the petitioner has never been released on parole and even when his mother passed away, he could not perform her last rites as he was not allowed to be released,” the petition states.

The plea also cites theory of reformative justice which can be summarised in the words of the eminent jurist and former Judge Justice V R Krishna Iyer- "Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

Having spent over 24 years being incarcerated in the prison, Singh's plea says he has well understood and is repenting the consequences of his action taken in the fit of his youthful rage and accordingly seeks the mercy of the apex court so that he can give back to the society through his service-oriented actions.

"Overwhelmed by distress at the barbaric deeds inflicted upon, India by the Mughals and the British, the petitioner found himself in a tumultuous state of mind. In a zealous endeavor to safeguard and defend Mother India, regrettable offenses were committed. It is crucial to contextualise these actions within, the fervent desire to protect the nation rather than stemming from personal malice," the plea submits.

Singh further claims that he was being discriminated in the matter of consideration of premature release as similarly situated persons, who have been incarcerated for the same or lesser period have been released prematurely whereas, his case is not being considered due to which his right under Article 14 is being infringed affecting his right to life under Article 21 

Singh was held guilty of murder for burning alive 58-year-old, Staines, an Australian Christian missionary working with victims of leprosy, and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, aged 10 and 6 respectively, as they slept in their jeep in a forest clearing in Manouharpur-Baripada on the night intervening January 21 and 22, 1999.

Cause Title: Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh vs. State of Odisha