There are some irregularities in the furlough granted to Sanjay Dutt say legal experts.
Questions are being raised about the furlough being granted to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who has been returned home after serving jail sentence in Yerwada Central Jail. Sanjay is not eligible to apply for parole till 2015. The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recently quashed petitions challenging the validity of the rules restricting a prisoner from applying for parole before the completion of one year from the expiry of his last parole. Dutt will be able to apply for parole only after March 22, 2015.
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.
The actor has been convicted under the Arms Act in 2013 in Mumbai bomb blast case. Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) Meera Borvankar said, “We have released Sanjay Dutt on furlough of 14 days. Furlough is a right of every prisoner. I do not know what reason Sanjay Dutt has given for furlough. When police report on his furlough application came, we released him.”
When AV spoke to veteran criminal lawyer Majeed Memon he said, “We can’t say he is out illegally, but there may be some irregularities in granting him parole. You can’t attribute illegality as if he must have secured bonds and other relevant procedure to be out on parole. Dutt is spending time in prison like any other prisoner and doesn’t enjoy any special privilege even though he is a celebrity. Don’t know why whenever he is out, anti-Sanjay campaigns begin.”
Abha Singh social activist and advocate said, “No, I think every prisoner is permitted to avail furlough of 14 days.”
Rohini Salian, senior Advocate said, “The government is to be blamed for this act. There should be no difference between him and other convicts. I don’t know on what grounds he is being granted parole. All I want to say is that the law is and should be equal for all.”
When we spoke to lawyer Satish Manshinde he refused comment about this matter.
Prison authorities said that the furlough would enable Mr. Dutt to spend Christmas and New Year with his family in Mumbai.
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.
Generally, furlough can be granted for 14 days at a time. A prisoner can seek a single extension of another 14 days. But parole could be granted for one month at a time, with a permission to seek two extensions. “According to the previous rules, a prisoner would have been allowed to apply for parole twice a year. Every time, he could be granted 90 days (30 days at a time, and two extensions thereafter, based on merit). This means that every year, he could remain out of prison for a staggering 180 days. But now, according to the amendment which has been upheld by the court, he will be able to apply for parole only once a year. Thereafter, he could make another application only after a year of the expiry of his previous parole, the Bombay High Court, while passing the recent order, observed that the rampant misuse of the previous provisions led the government to amend the rules. “It is clear that the State government noticed that the provision for grant of parole leave was being misused on the pretext of illness of nearest relatives.
Sanjay Dutt said, “I didn’t get any special treatment. I had applied for furlough five months back, then later it was sanctioned. Thanks for all your support.”
Earlier, the actor had taken a furlough twice, first in November 2013 on medical grounds for 28 days, followed by a leave of similar duration in January this year to tend to his ailing wife Manyata. The latter leave had sparked massive protests in Pune with protestors accusing jail authorities of being partial towards the celebrity. The court had said that it was high time the rules for such relief were looked into and that there was a need for bringing in ‘radical changes’ in the Prisons Rules, 1959.