'District judge should check abuse of power'

Sankar Sen, retired Director of National Police Academy and former Director General of National Human Rights Commission, is an authoritative voice on policing. He spoke to Shemin Joy of Deccan Herald.

Excerpts:

On Sanjay Dutt's frequent outings on parole

Totally against all norms. Parole is a supervised release for a short time so that a genuine problem of a prisoner could be addressed or that he can get in touch with his family as he is totally accustomed to prison life. Parole has to be for a brief duration. Normally it is for five to six weeks. It is not extended at all. But in Dutt’s case, it has been extended three or four times. A report is sought from the police as to whether the reason cited for parole by the prisoner is justified. I don't know what report police have given in Dutt's case. It seems though he has come out for the treatment of his wife, he is looking after his own business and contacting film producers. So he is taking full advantage of the system. On what basis the parole is given, the Bombay High Court has now asked for papers and we will come to know about it. On the face of it, it is singularly irregular.

On Common man getting parole

Common man can get parole in urgent cases on the report by the police. But the problem is that the police do not give it on time and there is also corruption. The police and prison staff extract money for giving parole. It is becoming difficult for common man because there is delay in the whole thing. It is not correct to say that only people with right connections get parole. But there is no proper body to look into parole petitions. This is left to the Prisons Inspector General and a committee formed by the authorities. Sometimes, the committee does not give parole to deserving cases but in many cases it is given.

On political interference

The classic case is that of Manu Sharma (Jessica Lall murder convict). Everything in the country is today politicised. Politicians call the shots and the bureaucrats play to the tune. But it is farfetched to say you will get parole only if you have political connection. The point is that if a politician wants a certain thing to be done, then the bureaucrat should show him the rules.

On the need for systemic changes

It should be ensured that the police report comes in time, there should be clarity in the report on whether to give parole or not and a deadline for taking a decision. The convict is in judicial custody and the court also must exercise its power. Nothing prevents a district judge from asking how many paroles are pending, what is to be done and all. The judge should ensure that no violation takes place. I am not saying the judge should be given the charge of taking a decision on parole but he should periodically check whether abuses of power took place. No system can work if the politicians in power want to subvert it. It should be ensured that the Prisons IG is not put under pressure and extension of parole should be seldom given.

On reformation of prisoner

I doubt whether the parole system has helped in reforming prisoners though it is expected to. I have grave doubts. There is not much research work to show that.

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