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Prison Sentence Commuted To A Fine: A Right Of The Commission On The Prerogative Of Mercy

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Several articles in the press and on social networks have criticized the decision of the Commission on the Prerogative of Mercy regarding Chandra Prakashsing Dip. However, this is not the first time that the Commission on the Prerogative of Mercy has overturned a prison sentence. In 2019, Sir Victor Glover had already told the press that he felt that he did not have to explain the Commission’s decisions.

Sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment in a case of conspiracy to commit fraud, Chandra Prakashsingh Dip had his prison sentence commuted to a fine of Rs 100,000. While he is not the only person to have been pardoned by the Commission on the Prerogative of Mercy at this year-end, the fact that Chandra Prakashsingh Dip is the son of the Commissioner of Police, Anil Kumar Dip.

It must be remembered that on January 28, 2019, Mohamed Siddick Hashim Maudarbocus, aged 29 years, obtained a presidential pardon for a sentence of 6 months in prison and a fine of Rs 50,000. The case became controversial as the young man had been convicted for buying synthetic drugs online. To add insult to injury, the son of Dr. Siddick Maudarbocus, former candidate and member of the MMM, had his sentence completely erased in what is called as ‘Free of Pardon’.

It will be recalled that the former President, Cassam Uteem had complained that a President had little choice but to act on the recommendations of the Commission.

In 2019, Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic from 1992 to 2002, was willing to explain how things were done in his time. “I suppose the operation must be the same,” he explained, “the Commission can pardon a convict or reduce his sentence, or otherwise clear him so that he can get a character certificate.” These are the three main scenarios that the Commission deals with.

Cassam Uteem explained that the Commission meets on a regular basis, normally once a month, to process cases. A case is opened after a convict has petitioned the Commission or the Chairman directly. Most often, solicitors draft the request. “There are no prerequisites for all cases,” he says, “each case is considered on its own merits. The Commissioners decide according to their wisdom.”

According to the former President of the Republic, the files are prepared by the Commission’s secretary. The file may contain the initial letter sent by the convicted person, recommendations made by personalities or other organizations, as well as the verdict of the Courts of Justice. To the question of whether a psychological evaluation is a part of this file, Cassam Uteem hesitatingly said that “in principle, the Commission should be in the presence of all the facts, but I don’t know if it is part of it.”

The former President says that the number of requests that the Commission dealt with was very large, so much so that not all the files could be considered during the month. “I think we could receive about 30 files per month, but we were processing more than 60 at a time with the delays,” he recalls, “sometimes the files were incomplete and additional information had to be requested. That’s why inmates would send a second letter to find out why they hadn’t gotten answers yet.”

What the Constitution says about the pardon commission

The Commission on the Prerogative of Mercy is found in Article 75 of the Constitution. This article gives the President of the Republic the power to “grant to any person convicted of any offence a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions,” as well as to reduce or lessen a conviction.

However, the President does not make such decisions alone. He is guided by the Commission on the Prerogative of Mercy. This is an entity having a Chairman with at least two other members, who are appointed by the President “acting in his own deliberate judgment”.

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