Calcutta High Court Upholds the Right to Dignity Despite Conviction


In a recent judgment, the Calcutta High Court underscored the inviolable right of individuals to live with dignity, even in the face of criminal conviction. The case, Mahuya Chakraborty Vs. State of West Bengal centred around a plea challenging the decision of the West Bengal State Sentence Review Board (WBSSRB) to deny premature release to an individual serving a life sentence. Single-judge Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya emphasized the profound impact of lengthy incarceration, asserting that the right to dignity cannot be forfeited solely due to a criminal record.


Grounds of Challenge:

The petitioner contested the WBSSRB’s decision on two primary grounds. Firstly, the petitioner argued that the committee responsible for deciding premature release was improperly constituted. Secondly, it was contended that the committee failed to consider established Supreme Court precedents that emphasize the rehabilitative purpose of imprisonment, especially after an adequate period of punishment.


Reformative Vs. Retributive Approach:

Justice Bhattacharyya, in his order, reaffirmed the modern criminal jurisprudential principle that the objective of punishment is reformative rather than retributive. Citing various Supreme Court judgments, the petitioner highlighted the judiciary’s consistent stance that imprisonment aims at rehabilitation after a sufficient duration of punishment.


Omission of Essential Considerations:

The court noted significant lapses in the WBSSRB’s decision-making process. Notably, the failure to solicit a report from prison authorities regarding the convict’s conduct during incarceration and his present behaviour raised concerns about the comprehensive evaluation of the case. The court emphasised the lack of evidence regarding the petitioner’s engagement in socially productive work or educational pursuits during the period of custody.


Proper Constitution of WBSSRB:

Crucially, Justice Bhattacharyya pointed out that the WBSSRB was not properly constituted, adding weight to the necessity of reconsidering the premature release request. The court, with these observations, directed the WBSSRB to re-evaluate the case with a properly constituted board.



In concluding the matter, the Calcutta High Court, acknowledging the petitioner’s right to live with dignity, disposed of the petition with a directive for the WBSSRB to reconsider the request for premature release. This decision reinforces the judiciary’s commitment to balancing justice with the essential principles of human dignity.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The content may not reflect the most current legal developments and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Readers should consult a qualified legal professional before taking any action based on the information provided. The authors and publishers disclaim any liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on this article. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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