When actor Sanjay Dutt, who was convicted for illegally possessing weapons, was granted parole for 90 days and two furlough leaves of 28 days each, allowing him to spend 146 days out of the jail, and released in February 2016 after serving his remaining sentence, it led to a furore.
Two years after the Maharashtra Prisons Department amended its manual along the lines of the 2016 Model Prison Manual approved by the Union Home Ministry in the wake of an convict in the Pallavi Purkayastha case jumping parole, prison rules are set to be amended once again in the state. What changes will the new amendment usher in?
What changes have been proposed in the Maharashtra Prisons (Mumbai Furlough and Parole) (Amendment) Rules, 2018?
Three important changes have been proposed. One, convicts undergoing sentence for “attempt to rape with murder” will not be eligible for regular parole and furlough. Two, Rule 4(11) of the Maharashtra Prisons (Mumbai Furlough and Parole) (Amendment) Rules, 2016, which denies regular parole and furlough to those who have not been granted bail or against whom the state government has appealed, has been dropped. Finally, in all cases of emergency parole, the Prison Department will ask the prisoner’s local police station whether a police escort is required or not.
What is the rationale for these changes?
The demand for an amendment to the Rules began after Sajjad Mughal — the convict in the Pallavi Purkayastha murder case — jumped parole. The 2016 amendment did not deny regular parole or furlough to those who were convicted of the “attempt to rape with murder” charge. The other reason pertains to the numerous petitions filed by convicts challenging Rule 4(11) that denies parole to prisoners whose bail plea is pending or against whose sentence the state has filed an appeal.
A committee headed by the state’s Principal Secretary (Home), which was formed to review the provisions, was of the opinion that Rule 4(11) violated the principles of natural justice, and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.
What are parole and furlough?
Parole and furlough, which are parts of the penal system and used for humanising prison administration, are granted under different circumstances. While furlough is a matter of right, parole is not, and is sought by the convict for a specific reason including death in the family or wedding of a blood relative. Furlough is granted to a prisoner periodically irrespective of any particular reason, enabling him to retain family and social ties, and to avoid the ill-effects of continuous prison life. The period of furlough is treated as remission of sentence. A parole may be denied to a prisoner if the competent authority is satisfied that releasing the convict would not be in the interest of the society.
How will these changes help prisoners?
Those denied parole and furlough under Rule 4(11) will now be eligible for both at regular intervals. There are over a dozen petitions pending before the Bombay High Court in this regard. Also in the proposed amendment, the period of emergency parole has been increased to 14 days without any extension. The 2016 amendment allowed only seven days. The proposed Rules also nullify the 2016 provision which states that a prisoner has to submit a refundable deposit of an adequate amount (not less than Rs 15,000) while seeking parole. The amendment states that the refundable deposit would be decided by the superintendent of the prison concerned.
Why were the Rules amended in 2016?
The Rules were amended after Sajjad Mughal jumped parole. Mughal, who is from Kashmir, was held guilty of attempted rape and murder of Pallavi Purkayastha by a city sessions court in 2014. In February 2016, the convict was granted parole to visit his ailing mother. He was to report to Nashik jail on March 26 that year, but he failed to do so. Instead, he sought an extension, which was rejected by the local divisional commissioner. Following his failure to return, Nashik Jail authorities lodged a complaint with the local police in April that year.
Under attack for its weak rules on granting parole to convicts sentenced for committing “serious offences”, the state government in August 2016 amended the Rules relating to sanction of parole and furlough.
Who were denied parole and furlough following the 2016 amendment?
Following the 2016 amendment, regular parole and furlough were denied to those convicted of serious offences including dacoity, terrorist activities, kidnap for ransom, smuggling of narcotic and psychotropic substances, rape or rape with murder, assault, rioting, mutiny or escape, and sexual crimes against a minor and human trafficking.
Parole is not granted to convicts sentenced to death or, who in the opinion of jail authorities, are likely to flee when released from prison.