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The Hindu
The Hindu

Political remission: on the Bihar government’s decision and the Anand Mohan Singh case

The Bihar government’s decision late last month to grant remission to Anand Mohan Singh is a disturbing political signal given the circumstances under which the remission was done. At the time of his release, the former MP, who was out on parole for his son’s engagement, was serving life sentence after being convicted for the murder of the then District Magistrate of Gopalganj and young IAS officer, G. Krishnaiah, in December 1994. It was to avenge a police encounter death that a mob owing allegiance to Singh had murdered the Scheduled Caste civil servant, who hailed from a landless family. Apparently aimed at benefiting Singh, the government, on April 10, amended the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012, removing the “murder of a public servant on duty” clause from the case list for which remission cannot be considered. The Patna District and Sessions Court, in 2007, had awarded capital punishment to Singh, which was judicially commuted to life sentence. The tweaking of the rules was followed up with another notification ordering the release of 27 prisoners, including Singh (they had all spent at least 14 years in jail). The State’s defence that it “followed all rules and regulations” is no argument as the change in rule appears to have been made to benefit a specific person. Also, the argument that the amendment has brought Bihar on a par with other States is weak because the original stipulation was meant to have a deterrent effect in a State that is notorious for the criminalisation of politics. That Singh’s “good conduct” was a factor too falls flat as in October 2021, a search of his jail ward led to the seizure of mobile phones.

It is not difficult to decipher the rationale behind Singh’s release as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in January, had assured Singh’s supporters at an event that he was “doing his best” to set the former MP free. The compulsions of electoral politics confound the situation. What is of solace is that the government’s action is being challenged in courts including the Supreme Court; the civil servant’s wife, Uma Krishnaiah, has made an appeal. Apart from demoralising civil servants, the move sets an unhealthy precedent that shakes the principle of good governance. The circumstances of this case cannot be justified on any ground. This has the danger of compelling a government official to take decisions in his or her day-to-day affairs, keeping in mind only the influence wielded by extra constitutional persons. Other States would do well to treat the Anand Mohan Singh release as a case study to show how a decision in governance should not be taken. As a matter of propriety, the Bihar government should reconsider its decisions of tweaking the remission rules and releasing the former MP.

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