The Gujarat government has extended its condition of not granting furlough to convicts of 2002 Godhra Sabarmati Express train carnage case, that led to post-Godhra riots, for three more years. The condition restricts the mobility of prisoners outside the jail who are involved in serious crimes and pose threat to law and order. The same condition has been imposed on undertrials of 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blast accused, among other cases.
The condition under Section 268 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) restricts the movement of inmates outside the jail premises. In case of convicts of Godhra train carnage the government first invoked the condition since their arrest in 2003 which has been extended every three years. Some nine convicts in this case have challenged this condition before the Gujarat High Court. The government informed the HC on Thursday that it has extended the condition for another three years. The matter was disposed by justice Harsha Devani while allowing the petitioners to challenge the government’s decision.
Under this condition, prisoners can not seek furlough from the government or the jail authorities that has power to do so on temporary basis. However, the prisoners can approach the HC for such relief if the jail authorities refuse to do so. The HC judges can use their discretion to overrule this administrative decision and grant such prisoners temporary bail or furlough. Recently, one of the convicts facing death sentence, Salim Zarda, was granted temporary bail by the HC but he refused to return to the jail. He was later arrested by the police last week.
According to lawyer AD Shah who represents several convicts in the case, “The government gave general grounds that the convicts are involved in serious cases, they might breach the parole among other things. The government has not considered jail records of the inmates who were released by the HC and surrendered on time. In fact, the government has not considered the HC order.”
On December 26, 2013 the court had directed the state “to reconsider the matter in the light of the changed circumstances, viz., as of now the situation is no longer as tense and sensitive as it was at the relevant time (2003) when the original notification under Section 268 of the CrPC came to be issued; the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) had been revoked; many of the accused persons have been acquitted; after their acquittal no untoward incident has taken place, etc.”