From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : parole and furlough
Mains level : Prison reforms and criminal justice system
- There was a huge uproar in the media when Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a convict serving a 20-year prison sentence for raping two disciples, was seen organising an online ‘satsang’ while on a 40-day parole in October. On the other hand, S. Nalini, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, who was serving life imprisonment, was given several extensions of parole from December 2021 until her release. Lack of uniformity in parole rules does not bode well for the criminal justice system.
What is Parole and furlough?
- Short term release: Furlough and parole envisage a short-term release from custody, both aimed as reformative steps towards prisoners.
- Not a Right but a case of Specific exigency: Parole is granted to meet a “specific exigency” and cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
- Circumstances considered: Both provisions are subject to the circumstances of the prisoner, such as jail behaviour, the gravity of offences, sentence period and public interest.
Is there any specific provision pertaining to parole and/or furlough?
- No specific provision: The Prisons Act, 1894, and the Prisoners Act, 1900, did not contain any specific provision pertaining to parole and/or furlough.
- State are empowered to make such rules: Section 59 of the Prisons Act empowers States to make rules inter alia “for the shortening of sentences” and “for rewards for good conduct”.
- Since “prisons, reformatories” fall in the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, States are well within their reach to legislate on issues related to prisons.
Parole rules are different for different states and on different case
- Suspension of sentence in Uttar Pradesh: The Uttar Pradesh rules provide for the ‘suspension of sentence’ (without mentioning the term parole or furlough or leave) by the government generally up to one month. However, the period of suspension may exceed even 12 months with prior approval of the Governor.
- Maharashtra rules: Maharashtra’s rules permit release of a convict on ‘furlough’ for 21 or 28 days (depending upon the term of sentence), on ‘emergency parole’ for 14 days, and on ‘regular parole’ for 45 to 60 days.
- Revised rules in Haryana: The recently revised rules of Haryana (April 2022) permit ‘regular parole’ to a convict up to 10 weeks (in two parts), ‘furlough’ for three to four weeks in a calendar year, and ‘emergency parole’ up to four weeks. Ram Rahim is on his regular parole.
- Rules of leaves and its extension in Tamin Nadu and the Nalini case: Though the Tamil Nadu rules of 1982 permit ‘ordinary leave’ for a period of 21 to 40 days, ‘emergency leave’ is permitted up to 15 days (to be spread over four spells). However, in exceptional circumstances, the government may extend the period of emergency leave. Till recently, Nalini was on extended emergency leave owing to her mother’s illness.
- Unlike TN, rules in Andhra Pradesh prohibit extension: Surprisingly, the Andhra Pradesh rules specifically prohibit such extension (Nalini extension) on account of the continued illness of a relative of a prisoner. They permit ‘furlough’ and parole/emergency leave up to two weeks, except that the government may extend parole/emergency leave in special circumstances.
- Odisha: Similarly, Odisha rules permit ‘furlough’ for up to four weeks, ‘parole leave’ up to 30 days and ‘special leave’ up to 12 days.
- West Bengal: West Bengal provides for releasing a convict on ‘parole’ for a maximum period of one month and up to five days in case of any ‘emergency’.
- Kerala: Kerala provides for 60 days of ‘ordinary leave’ in four spells, and up to 15 days ‘emergency leave’ at a time.
Provision of ‘Custody parole’
- Custody parole: Release of a prisoner, who is ineligible for a leave under the police escort for some hours for extreme emergency cases.
- Custody parole In Haryana: A hardcore convict, who is ineligible for any parole or furlough, may be released for attending the funeral or marriage of a close relative under police escort for a period not exceeding six hours. Haryana has a long list of ‘hardcore’ prisoners who are not entitled to be released except on ‘custody parole’ under certain conditions.
- In Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu, police escort is given to a prisoner who is released on emergency leave and is dangerous to the community.
- Kerala: Similarly, in Kerala, prisoners who are not eligible for emergency leave may be granted permission for visit under police escort for a maximum period of 24 hours.
- States that do not permit such provision: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal do not permit release of habitual criminals and convicts, who are dangerous to society, under Sections 392 to 402 of the Indian Penal Code.
The rules of set by the states vary in scope and content
- Furlough is as incentive: While ‘furlough’ is considered as an incentive for good conduct in prison and is counted as a sentence served.
- Parole: parole or leave is mostly a suspension of sentence. Emergency parole or leave is granted for specified emergencies such as a death, serious illness or marriage in the family. While most States consider only close relatives such as spouse, parents, son, daughter, brother and sister as close family, Kerala has a long list of more than 24 relatives in case of death and 10 in case of marriage.
- Different circumstances in different states: Though regular parole or leave is granted after serving minimum sentence (varying from one year to four years) in prison, some States include other familial and social obligations such as sowing or harvesting of agricultural crops, essential repair of house, and settling family disputes. In Kerala, a convict becomes eligible for ordinary leave after serving one-third of a year in prison if he is sentenced for one year.
- Concern raised: Despite the fact that temporary release cannot be availed of as a matter of right, the above provisions demonstrate that each State has its own set of rules which not only vary in scope and content, but may also be flouted to give favours to a few.
- Without any common legal framework in place to guide the States and check misuse, arbitrariness is likely to creep in, endangering the entire criminal justice system. With ‘prisons’ in the State List, this task is not feasible unless at least half of the States come together to request the Central government to legislate a common law for the country on parole and furlough.
Q. What is parole or furlough? The entire criminal justice system in the country is in jeopardy due to lack of uniformity in rules. Discuss.