THE MAHARASHTRA government has again decided to amend its prison rules, this time making those convicted in attempt to rape with murder cases ineligible for regular parole and furlough.
While the amendment has been cleared by the government, it is likely to be gazetted shortly. Once effective, the amendment will benefit prisoners whose petitions are pending before the Bombay High Court.
The move comes after Sajjad Mughal, convicted for the murder of lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha (25) in 2012, had jumped parole in 2016. Following this, the government had denied parole and furlough to those convicted in rape and rape with murder cases.
“Post the Mughal episode, the rules pertaining to furlough and parole were amended. However, it did not include those convicted for attempt to rape with murder, the charge under which Mughal was convicted. In the proposed amended rules, parole and furlough to such convicts have been denied,” said a senior home department official.
The proposed amendment has also axed Rule 4 (11) of the Maharashtra Prisons (Mumbai Furlough and Parole) (Amendment) Rules-2016, which denies parole and furlough to those who have not been granted bail or against whom the state government has appealed in court.
This, after over a dozen petitions, including the one by gangster Arun Gawli, was filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the 2016 amendment on the ground that it was in violation of the Right to Life granted under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Sources said numerous petitions before the court had compelled the prisons department to have a relook at the 2016 amended provisions. For this purpose, a committee headed by Principal Secretary (Home) S K Singh was formed, which proposed the Maharashtra Prisons (Mumbai Furlough and Parole) (Amendment) Rules-2018.
While seeking furlough is the right of a convict, who has spent over two years of his jail term, parole is sought for a specific reason, including death in a family or marriage of a blood relative.
Mughal, a Kashmiri youth was convicted in 2014 by a city sessions court that held him guilty of molesting and murdering a Purakayastha. In February 2016, he was granted parole for visiting his ailing mother. He was supposed to report back to the Nashik Jail on March 26 but instead sought an extension, which was rejected by the local divisional commissioner. After Mughal failed to return in April, the jail lodged a complaint with the local police.
Criticised for having weak rules while granting parole to convicts sentenced for committing ‘serious offences’, the government in August 2016 had amended norms relating to sanction of parole and furlough.
“Post the amendment, nearly a dozen petitions were filed before the high court, mainly challenging Rule 4(11). The committee had a relook on the 2016 amendment and found that the provision was violative of Article 21 of the Constitution that grants Right to Life and was discriminative in nature. Therefore, in the proposed amendment, the subsection has been removed,” said the official.
The proposed amendment has also brought changes in the emergency parole rules. A prisoner can now avail an emergency parole for 14 days without any extension. The 2016 amendment had allowed only seven days. Also, emergency parole under police escort or with a condition to report daily to the local police station can be granted only after the superintendent of police of the concerned prison seeks a report from the local police on the same. The expense of police escort will be borne by the prisoner prior to his release on parole.
Further, emergency parole in the event of death of grandparents, parents, spouse, son, daughter, brother or sister shall be granted by the superintendent of police of the concerned prison where the application has been made. In cases where emergency parole has been sought for reason of marriage of son or daughter or brother or sister, the deputy inspector general (Prisons) will be the appellate authority.
The proposed amendment adds a detailed provision in the event a prisoner jumps parole or furlough. In such a case, the police shall arrest the prisoner under Section 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to his lawful apprehension) of the IPC, if at large, and remand to undergo the unexpired portion of his sentence. If prisoner is not arrested, police shall take action as per sections 82 & 83 of Criminal Procedure Code-1973 (pertaining to proclamation of person absconding).
The new rules have axed the 2016 provision which states that a prisoner has to make a refundable deposit of an adequate mount ( not less than Rs 15,000) while seeking parole. Now, the refundable deposit would be decided by the SP of the respective prison. “In many cases, we found that prisoners were not able to apply for parole as they couldn’t afford the deposit of Rs 15,000…,” said the official.