They get authorities' over-indulgence

They get authorities' over-indulgence

They get authorities' over-indulgence

The over-indulgence shown by authorities in granting frequent paroles to actor Sanjay Dutt, serving five-year jail term in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, has brought the focus back into the methodology adopted to deal with such requests by other convicts.

No one can question the need for allowing parole to convicts. But the arbitrariness reflected in treating requests made by VVIP prisoners – as seen in case of Dutt -- has the propensity to make others lament.

The origin of parole can be traced back to the Prison Act 1900 which talked about setting up of a parole board comprising jail officials, senior police officer as well as district magistrate in order to facilitate release of convicts.

In the case of Kesar Singh Gularia Vs State of Himachal Pradesh (1984), the Supreme Court said under any circumstances, the application of the prisoner for release on parole should be processed and final orders passed within a period of 15 days from the date of making of such application.

“In cases of urgency, such as death or serious illness, the applications should be processed with greater expedition so that if ultimately parole is granted, the object and purpose behind seeking the parole is subserved. In such cases, ordinarily, the application should be processed within 5 to 7 days, if not earlier,” the court says.

No provision

Criminal lawyer Amit Kumar says there is no express provision in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) dealing with parole or furlough. Suppose the application for parole is rejected, prisoners can invoke writ jurisdiction in a High Court, saying that the request was declined in a mechanical manner or without application of mind.

Germane here is to refer to the case of Gurdeep Bagga Vs Delhi Administration, wherein the Delhi High Court rejected the plea of a life convict to be released on parole after noticing that he had remained out for more than two years for the purpose of attending to his ailing mother despite the fact he had two elder sisters to take care of the patient.

“Parole provisions have become a matter of interpretation as well as discretion. Influential people take undue benefit of such circumstances while the poor continue to languish in jail,” says Kumar.

That’s why, the Bombay High Court chastised the Maharashtra government authorities for being too liberal with actor Dutt, who has remained out of jail for 118 days out of total 307 days since his imprisonment.  It has questioned the purpose of punishment if the accused is given so much parole.

There are certain obvious benefits for taking a lenient view on parole applications. In the case of Rama Murthy Vs State of Karnataka (1996), the apex court noted overcrowding in jails is reduced by releases on parole as well.

The relevant authorities were also told by the Supreme Court not to burden any convict-petitioner with heavy amount of security and surety bond which could frustrate his bid to get out of jail.

Surety bond

To quote the case of Kesar Singh Gularia where, it was held, “the paramount consideration which the releasing authority will always bear in mind is that the right to be released on bail or furlough, as the case may be, upon satisfaction of the other conditions, is not defeated merely because the prisoner, on account of his impecunious condition, is unable to offer a security bond or surety bond.”

However, IPS officer Jasvir Singh wants reforms in the system, demanding a say for the victim, before a decision is taken on parole application.

He says it should be granted only in exceptional cases. “Jessica Lall case convict Manu Sharma and Dutt’s case showed how defective is the system of granting parole and how it is being misused by the high and mighty convicts. Secondly, there is no method of surveillance if conditions of parole were being violated. It catches the attention of authorities only when media takes up the issue.”

“There is serious lacuna in view of absence of mechanism to implement strictly the conditions of parole. The most important point is that the interest of victims is not taken into account when someone who is convicted of heinous crimes like rape and murder gets released. It is the greatest possible insult to the victims,” says Singh.

Infamous, high-profile parole cases

New Delhi

n Manu Sharma, son of Chandigarh Congress leader Venod Sharma, serving life imprisonment for the murder of Jessica Lal, repeatedly granted parole, thanks to then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit; first granted 30-day parole on September 24, 2009, to meet his ailing mother and attend the last rites of his grandmother.

However, Sharma’s grandmother had passed away in 2008. The parole was extended for another 30 days – despite objection from the police - during which Sharma was seen partying at a club in the capital. His mother was also seen at a press conference promoting a cricket tournament in Chandigarh. In November 2009, he was granted parole again

n Vikas Yadav, son of Uttar Pradesh politician D P Yadav, was convicted in the murder of Nitish Katara and the Jessica Lal murder case. Despite being sentenced to life imprisonment on May 30, 2008, Yadav was in and out of Tihar Jail 66 times between May 30, 2008, and February 8, 2010, averaging five trips a month.

n On February 25, 2014, Santosh Singh, serving life imprisonment in the Priyadarshini Mattoo murder case was granted one month parole for writing his dissertation for his LLM degree from Annamalai University.

BIHAR

n Parole was granted to Munna Shukla, former JD (U) MLA, convicted in the murder case of former minister Brij Bihari Prasad, in January 2014 to visit his home place as some property dispute had to be settled within the family after the demise of an elderly relative.

UTTAR PRADESH

n Former UP minister Amar Mani Tripathi, who is serving life sentence in jail on charges of conspiring to get his lover killed after the latter got pregnant, had been released on parole on a few occasions.

n UP politicians, who go to jails on criminal charges, prefer to get themselves admitted to hospitals on the pretext of being ill and then convert the hospital wards into homes. Former ministers Babu Singh Kushwaha, Jamuna Prasad Nishad are a few examples.


n Parole was granted to Munna Shukla, former JD (U) MLA, convicted in the murder case of former minister Brij Bihari Prasad, in January 2014 to visit his home place as some property dispute had to be settled within the family after the demise of an elderly relative.

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