Updated: October 28, 2019 6:57:29 pm
Ajay Chautala, founder of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), and father of Haryana’s new deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala, was granted furlough for two weeks on Saturday, and released from Delhi’s Tihar jail on Sunday morning.
Ajay Chautala and his father, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, have been in prison since 2013 after being convicted of corruption, criminal conspiracy, and forgery in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam. Ajay Chautala had applied for furlough some 10 days previously. This was the second time this year that he had sought furlough. He was released earlier in June so that he could appear for an examination in Sirsa.
Before that, Ajay Chautala was released on April 15, on a 21-day parole. The JJP had entered into an electoral alliance with the AAP for the Lok Sabha elections in Haryana, and Ajay Chautala campaigned extensively for the two parties.
In recent months, Ajay Chautala has approached the Delhi High Court twice seeking parole. He first sought parole for an examination beginning July 15, but his plea was dismissed. In October, Ajay Chautala went back to the High Court seeking parole. That petition remains pending.
So what are parole and furlough? How are they different?
Parole is a system of releasing a prisoner with suspension of the sentence. The release is conditional, usually subject to behaviour, and requires periodic reporting to the authorities for a set period of time. Parole is considered a reformative process. The provision (along with furlough) was introduced with a view to humanising the prison system.
In the United States and Britain, every sentence above 18 months is eligible for parole, after completion of one-third of prison time.
In India, parole (as well as furlough) are covered under The Prisons Act of 1894. Prisoners convicted of multiple murders or under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) are not eligible for parole.
Since prisons is a State subject in the Constitution, the Prisons Act of each state government defines the rules under which parole is granted in that state.
State governments have their own Prisoner Release on Parole Rules. For instance, in Rajasthan, initial parole is granted for 20 days; a second parole is for 30 days, and a third for 40 days. Thereafter, the prisoner can apply for permanent parole.
Parole is granted by the state executive — the jail authorities submit the report to state government — and the competent authority takes a final decision on grant of parole on humanitarian considerations.
If a plea for parole is rejected, the convict can move the High Court challenging the order of the competent authority.
Apart from regular parole, the superintendent of a jail can also grant parole up to a period of seven days in emergencies. For instance, actor Sanjay Dutt was granted parole on medical grounds; and Santosh Kumar Singh, who is serving a life term for the 1996 rape and murder of law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, was granted three weeks’ parole to write his LLM examination.
This is a concept broadly similar to parole, but with some significant differences. Furlough is given in cases of long-term imprisonment. The period of furlough granted to a prisoner is treated as remission of his sentence.
Furlough is seen as a matter of right for a prisoner, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason, and merely to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties, and to counter the ill-effects of prolonged time spent in prison.
Parole, by contrast, is not seen as a matter of right, and is given to a prisoner for a specific reason, such as a death in the family or a wedding of a blood relative.
Parole may be denied to a prisoner even when he makes out a sufficient case, if the competent authority is satisfied that releasing the convict would not be in the interest of society.
Parole is often not granted to convicts sentenced to death, or to those who, in the opinion of jail authorities, are likely to flee when released from prison.
On the furlough granted to Ajay Chautala, the Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel told The Sunday Express in Delhi: “Usually, furlough can be obtained thrice a year, and is given to inmates with good behaviour. He (Ajay Chautala) got his first furlough when his mother died. This is the second furlough, and the reasons given are meeting the family and some puja related to his mother’s death.”
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