Orissa HC Refuses To Grant Relief To Maoist Leader Sabyasachi Panda

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court has declined to grant relief to Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda and made it clear that a convict as well as an undertrial prisoner cannot claim remedy under the writ of habeas corpus.

The HC reportedly clarified that a convict and an UTP cannot claim remedy under the writ of habeas corpus, seeking to release him from lawful imprisonment/custody, on the ground of violation of fundamental right to life and personal liberty.

While denying relief to Sabyasachi Panda, a division bench of Justice Arindam Sinha and Justice Mruganka Sekhar Sahoo in a recent order held, “Where petitioner is in custody as an undertrial and a convict, it cannot be said that thereby his fundamental right to life and liberty has been infringed, to persuade us to exercise discretion in directing his production for purpose of release.”

The petitioner had filed a writ petition seeking issuance of writ of habeas corpus for his release from jail custody, where he has been lodged for the last nine years as an undertrial in 131 cases. It was pointed out that he has been acquitted in 89 of those 131 cases.

It was further revealed that the petitioner has been convicted in a case where he was sentenced to life imprisonment and the order of conviction was challenged which is pending before the High Court.

Counsel for the petitioner placed reliance upon the decision of the HC in a case. wherein the court had ordered to expedite trial against some ‘tribal lady extremists’ on the ground that they were detained in prison for eight years. It had also ordered that they will be released on bail if the trial is not completed within the fixed timeline.

The Court, after perusing the judgment clarified that the bench therein had observed that unless the writ court is satisfied that a person has been imprisoned by virtue of an order that suffers from the vice of lack of jurisdiction or absolute illegality, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be issued.
While distinguishing the facts of that case, it noted that the Court had directed to expedite the trial in that case taking into account the fact that poor tribal ladies were detained in jail for eight years. It was also directed therein that if the trial does not get completed within the fixed period, those ladies would be entitled to be released on bail.

Considering the aforesaid, the Court observed that the petitioner cannot seek issuance of the writ of habeas corpus on the ground that his fundamental right to life and liberty is violated, especially since he is detained in custody not only as an undertrial but also as a life convict.


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