By Darshi Mehta, Government Law College, Mumbai.

Parole, the word has been doing rounds of the front page and even the page 3 of our newspapers these days, leaving the readers puzzled. Why Sanjay Dutt was granted parole this time? How can convicts like Manu Sharma be given parole? What is the filter process for conferring parole?

With the different accusations that media and the active Facebook and Twitter users seem to be making, it’s hard to understand what’s going on, let alone pick a side. Especially in this age, when the media appears to be swaying our opinions as per their agendas. It’s hard not to get baffled.

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Parole, the word comes from the French word “je donne ma parole” meaning ‘I give my word’, while it literally means ‘the word of honor’.

The objectives of parole are-

  • To enhance continuity with family members.
  • To maintain a minimum level of self-worth and confidence.
  • To develop a positive attitude and interest in life.
  • To combat inner stress.
  • To protect social ties.

There are two types of Parole for which a convict is eligible: Regular parole and Custody parole

Regular parole is granted on the following grounds:

  • Serious illness of a family member;
  • Critical conditions in the family on account of accident or death of a family member;
  • Marriage of any member of the family of the convict;
  • Delivery of a child by the wife of the convict if there is no other family member to take care of the spouse at home;
  • Serious damage to life or property of the family of the convict including damage caused by natural calamities;
  • To maintain family and social ties;

  To pursue the filing of a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court of India against a judgment delivered by the High Court convicting or upholding the conviction, as the case may be.

Custody parole would be granted in emergent circumstances as follows:-

  • Death of a family member;
  • Marriage of a family member;
  • Serious illness of a family member
  • Any other emergent circumstances

The Superintendent of Jail will verify the existence of the circumstances mentioned above from the concerned police station immediately on receipt of the application/request to that effect. This type of parole is to be conferred by an order in writing, issued by the superintendent of jail, for a period of not more than 6 hours.

In order to be eligible for release on a regular parole the following rules have to be followed:

  • A convict must have served at least one year in prison excluding any period covered by remission;
  • The conduct in prison must have been uniformly good
  • The convict should not have violated any terms and conditions of the parole granted previously
  • A minimum of six months ought to have elapsed from the date of termination of the previous parole
  • During the period of release on parole, if granted earlier, the convict should not have committed any crime

The following prisoners/convicts would not be eligible for being released on parole:-

  • Convicts whose release on parole is considered dangerous or a threat to national security or there exists any other reasonable ground such as a pending investigation in a case involving serious crime;
  • Prisoners who have been involved in crimes and offences against the State, like sedition or who have been found to be instigating serious violation of prison discipline;
  • Prisoners who have escaped from jail
  • The prisoner is not a citizen of India;
  • In the following cases, parole would ordinarily be not granted except, if in the discretion of the competent authority special circumstances exist for grant of parole;

          (a) If the prisoner is convicted of murder after rape;

          (b) If the prisoner is convicted for murder and rape of children;

          (c) If prisoner is convicted for multiple murders.

Even though the Prisons Act of 1894 seems clear enough there have been many discrepancies regarding the same. Mainly because of the apparent discrimination between celebrities, politicians, the affluent class and the rest.

As it is comprehensible from the recent case of Sanjay Dutt, he is currently serving a five-year sentence for involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. Ever since his surrender on May 16,2013, he has been out of jail on parole or furlough for 118 days. A PIL has been filed by an activist Pradeep Bhalekar stating that furlough applications of 313 convicts and parole applications of 438 convicts are pending with the jail authorities. Then why and how is Sanjay Dutt’s parole and furlough applications given a VIP status? His applications are considered within a week, whereas the applications of convicts who are in more need of parole like Zaibunissa Kazi, another 1993 bomb blast convicts whose kidney has failed is not given the same kind of attention. Why?

As per the constitution, every person is same in the eye of law. And right to life is given to the convicts as well. Then why are some convicts given special treatments over others?

The high court of Mumbai has expressed concern over this issue as well.

Another case of Manu Sharma, convict of the Jessica Lal case depicts the same story, in fact puts the government in worse place than ever.

On September 24, 2009 Delhi Lieutenant Governor granted Sharma 30-day parole from jail, on the grounds that he needed to attend to his ailing mother, attend the last rites of his grandmother and also look after the family business which was suffering in his absence. But, the basis for the parole was proved unfounded as Sharma’s grandmother had already died in 2008. During the second extension of the parole for another 30 days, Sharma was seen partying in a discothèque in Delhi. His mother, whose illness was also the basis for the parole, was seen at a media briefing promoting a ladies cricket tournament at his family-run hotel in Chandigarh. It was also later revealed that the parole was granted despite an objection from the Delhi police. Sharma was then again granted a nine days parole in December 2013 and 30 days on 26 December 2014 to appear for his master degree exams.

In a similar case, Bibi Jagir Kaur, who was jailed for her role in her daughter’s kidnapping. The murder charges against her had been dropped. She was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. She was granted parole just after 4 months of her imprisonment. It was reported that preferential treatment had been extended to her as she was the former Cabinet Minister of Punjab.

The Supreme Court of India, in its judgments on various aspects of prison administration, has laid down 3 broad principles regarding imprisonment and custody. Firstly, a person in prison does not become a non-person. Secondly, a person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment. Lastly, there is no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.

Clearly, the current practice is in violation of the principles established by the Supreme Court and Fundamental rights of a citizen. Even though there are stringent laws regarding parole there seems to be lack of intention to execute them in a fair manner.

The parole system suffers today because of two reasons firstly those who need parole are not getting it and secondly special treatment received by the elite class. This functional defect is going long ways in affecting the equality in the society and at the same time questions the standing and respect for the supreme law of the land that is the Constitution.

It’s a deep rooted problem which concerns not only the carelessness of the authorities but also the corrupt environment of our Nation. Need of the hour is that the authorities wake up and realize their duty as responsible citizens of the country.

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