Previously declared a security risk by the CBI, odds seem to be stacked against the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who has applied for parole saying that he wants to attend to his agricultural fields. The Indian Express explains what the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoner (Temporary Release) Act, 1988 and various court pronouncements say about parole and its requirement.
What is the purpose of parole?
The Supreme Court in the ‘Asfaq vs State of Rajasthan and Others’ in 2017 said the main purpose of provisions of parole, and furlough — a conditional temporary release, but with a benefit that such a period of release is considered part of the total sentence — is to afford a convict the opportunity to solve their personal and family problems and enable them to maintain their links with society. “Every citizen of this country has a vested interest in preparing offenders for successful re-entry into society,” said the apex court.
Who is entitled to it?
The 1988 Act in Haryana was enacted to provide for the temporary release of prisoners for good conduct after serving a certain period of conviction. As per the Section 3 of the Act, the state government in consultation of the District Magistrate of the area where the prisoner is to be released or any other appointed officer can release a prisoner for three weeks in case a member of prisoner’s family has died or is seriously ill or the prisoner is seriously ill; for four weeks in case the prisoner is to get married or there is marriage of close family members or for other sufficient causes like admission of any dependent in educational institute, medically scheduled delivery of convict’s wife or house repairs —- the sufficient causes are given in the Rules framed under the Act. A prisoner under the provision can also seek parole for agricultural operations on “his land or his father’s undivided land actually in possession of the prisoner” for total six weeks in a year. While parole can be granted after serving at least one year of the sentence — that has to be of more than four years as per the rules — after conviction, a prisoner who is serving sentence of more than four years is eligible for furlough only after he has served continuous imprisonment of three years and has not committed any jail offence.
What is the process involved?
Unlike bail, the temporary release under provisions for parole or furlough is given by the state, but its decision is amenable to challenge before a court of law. The rules framed under the 1988 Act in 2007 state that a prisoner can seek temporary release by submitting an application before the Jail Superintendent who in turn will forward the application and a report of his to the District Magistrate. The District Magistrate will then forward the case with his recommendations to the Director General of Prisons for grant of parole or otherwise. As per instructions issued by the DG (Prisons) in 2016, the Jail Superintendent has to forward the case to District Magistrate within five days and the Magistrate has to complete the process on his end within 21 days. The Magistrate, as per the ruling, is required to forward the case with his recommendations to the Divisional Commissioner (the powers of DG Prisons have been conferred upon the Divisional Commissioner) who in turn has to complete the process at his end within 10 days. The prisoner is required to surrender himself before the jail authorities at the end of the period of release. In certain types of cases, the Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates can take decisions at their own level as per a notification issued by the government in 2017.
Is there anything under the Act or rules which can prevent Dera head’s parole?
Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been in prison since August 2017 and technically has served the minimum sentence of one year to become eligible for parole. Under the Act, he does not fall under the category of hardcore prisoner who becomes entitled for temporary release only after completion of five years imprisonment. A hardcore prisoner, under the 1988 Act, means a person who has been convicted for dacoity, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, murder with rape, rape with a woman below sixteen years age, gangrape, serial killing, contract killing, waging war against nation or sedition. However, the state can deny parole to Ram Rahim under Section 6 of the 1988 Act which states that the government can do so in case it is satisfied that a prisoner’s release “is likely to endanger the security of the State or its maintenance of public order”.
What did HC recently observe regarding temporary release of Ram Rahim?
In May this year, two petitions were filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for temporary suspension of Dera chief’s sentence to allow him to attend and make arraignments for a foster daughter’s marriage. He was forced to withdraw his plea for interim bail after a division bench did not show any inclination to grant the prayer. On May 10, the plea filed by his so-called foster daughter Guransh Insan for same relief was dismissed by Justice Kuldip Singh who said, “I am of view that considering serious allegations against Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and law and order problem, which is likely to be created, in case he is released on parole and difficulty of State in rearresting him, there is no ground to grant parole”.
The CBI earlier had told the division bench on May 01 that more than 50,000 followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim assembled at the Dera in Sirsa on April 29 in 2019 on the day of its foundation and in case he was given the bail and allowed to visit the Dera headquarters in Sirsa, it will be “highly detrimental to the peace of the states of Haryana and nearby states and law and order situation may go out of hands”.