The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe into the furlough granted to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt. It’s a set back to Dutt who was released on December 25, 2014 after his leave application was accepted by the authorities. Already questions were raised about jail authorities being lenient towards Dutt and injustice being meted against other convicts. Afternoon Voice had published a story on December 24, 2014 questioning his furlough and had also spoken to several lawyers who had pointed out several irregularities in the furlough granted to Dutt. Sanjay is not eligible to apply for parole till 2015. Dutt had applied for furlough to spend time with his family on the occasion of Christmas.
Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde said, “If Sanjay Dutt is granted leave on a recurring basis then a probe will conducted about all the other criminals who are serving their sentence and applied for leaves but were denied. We can’t give special privilege to Dutt and sideline other convicts. The report that I have asked of my department will not favour anyone, this cannot happen and if indeed happened then we will set an inquiry.”
In a recent judgment, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has upheld the validity of the amendments to the Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules 1959. The State government had, through the Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) (Amendment) Rules, 2012, made changes to the 1959 regulations. Earlier, prisoners could apply for parole twice a year. But to stop the blatant misuse of the provisions, the Maharashtra government introduced the amendment in 2012.
Earlier, Dutt had taken furlough on medical grounds in October 2013 for 28 days, followed by a similar leave for 28 days in December 2013, to tend to his ailing wife Manyata, who was found attending a party the next day leading to protests. His wife’s purported prolonged illness prompted him to seek further parole in January this year for another 28 days.
The actor, who is serving the remaining 42 months of his prison term in connection with the illegal possession of arms in 1993 Mumbai blasts, has been out on parole on several occasions. Due to frequent parole applications earlier, the Bollywood actor had even sparked a controversy, where the authorities were questioned over granting him leave.
The right to be released on parole is not an absolute right. The same can be availed of in case of occurrence of the contingencies mentioned in Rule 19 of the Rules 1959,” the judgment stated. “Thus, in case of serious illness, delivery of a pregnant woman prisoner or in case of house collapse, floods, fire or earthquake, a prisoner if released on parole can seek extension of the period of parole if the contingencies so warrant up to a period of 90 days. The proviso to Rule 19 has merely restricted the release on parole for a period of one year after the expiry of last parole, except in case of death of the nearest relative mentioned in Rule 19. It, therefore, cannot be said that the entitlement of a prisoner to be released on parole is totally taken away.