The Rajasthan High Court has stressed upon the need to inform convicts of the provisions of parole that can be availed by them as per the Rajasthan Prisoners Release on Parole Rules, 2021. The court was dealing with a petition filed by a life convict who had sought parole after 14 years in prison and the court was dismayed to have learnt that it took so long for the convict to seek parole.
This seemingly indicated that the prisoner was not aware of this right to parole that was bestowed upon convicts and thus the court gave specific direction to display the same in prisons so that prisoners are aware of the same.
The bench of Justices Sandeep Mehta and Manoj Kumar Garg was dealing with a petition of convict Rakesh undergoing life imprisonment at the Open Air Camp, Barmer who has undergone more than 14 years of his sentence. He had applied for parole in February which was accepted by the District Parole Advisory Committee with some recommendations. Citing poor family conditions and other impediments as reason, the convict petitioner has forwarded this writ petition from jail praying that the requirement of furnishing surety bonds imposed in the recommendations be relaxed as he has no means to pay surety and continues to languish in custody.
Upon receiving a report about the family condition of the petitioner, it was found that he has no moveable or immoveable property. The court observed that this was a “pathetic state of affairs”, as the convicts after serving 14 years in prison were being considered for parole for the first time. The court then stressed upon the need for a reformative theory of punishment that will ensure convicts’ reintegration into the society.
The court highlighted that as per Rule 10 of the Rajasthan Prisoners Release on Parole Rules, 2021, every prisoner, who has served a particular part of his sentence (with the maximum being 5 years for life convicts) earns a right to be considered for release on parole. “We have come across numerous cases wherein, the convicts languishing in jails for prolonged periods unable to avail the facility of parole because of poverty/ illiteracy and other trivial thereby, frustrating the spirit of the welfare legislation i.e. the Rules of 2021 (previously Rules of 1958),” the court observed.
The court was disturbed to learn that the petitioner after serving 14 years was being granted parole for the first time, thus it directed the Member Secretary, Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority in coordination with the Director General of Prison to prepare a computerised database of convicts lodged in the prisons all over the State of Rajasthan which may include the broad details viz. date of arrest of the convict; sentence served by him/her; jail punishment, if any; period of abscondence, if any; paroles granted, if any and submit the details by September 14.
The court further directed, “A prominent sign board shall be installed at the entries of all Central Jails in the State of Rajasthan displaying in Hindi the gist of Rule 10 of the Rajasthan Prisoners Release on Parole Rules, 2021.” The court also cast upon the Superintendent of the prison the duty to inform all eligible prisoners of their right to be considered for being released on parole as soon as their cause becomes ripe.
The court thus waived off the surety and instead imposed a personal bond to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh to the satisfaction of the Superintendent, District Jail, Barmer. The court also directed the petitioner to submit an undertaking to the Superintendent that he shall keep peace and good behaviour during the period of parole and shall not try to abscond failing which, his future opportunities of getting parole/ permanent parole/ staying in the Open Air Camp shall stand forfeited/ curtailed. The court gave the superintendent the liberty to impose other adequate and reasonable conditions to ensure return of the convict to the prison.
This judgement also brought to fore the issue of surety that may be imposed by the district committee considering parole. More often than not, convicts serving their sentences in prisons belong to marginalised communities and cannot afford to find a surety of any amount. Further, there are prisoners who have not been in contact with their families for years either due to their economic condition or due to being lodged in prisons far away from their homes. Thus, finding a surety that will enable them to come out on parole is next to impossible. This probably leads to convicts languishing in prisons even if they are granted parole or it might also discourage some others from applying for parole due to their inability to procure surety for their temporary release. Certainly, surety is being imposed to ensure that a convict returns to prison and does not violate parole conditions. However, the necessity of surety in some cases needs to be reviewed seriously by the concerned authority granting parole, which includes doing an assessment of the convict’s assets as well as assets of his family members and whether they will be able to stand as surety for him.
Parole, as the court stated, is a matter of right for a convict. Certainly, some convicts who have committed much serious offences against the state like terrorism and serious sexual offences or offences like murder are not privy to the freedom that comes with parole. That leaves us with convicts who have committed other kinds of crimes and deserve their chance at reformation and reintegration into society once their complete sentence is concluded. Parole as a concept is from the positivist school of thought and is a correctional process aimed at social rehabilitation. Also, parole proves to be an incentive to a convict who really wishes to transform and reform oneself. This is evident from the provisions of parole that do not allow a subsequent parole if any former parole condition has been violated. This motivates prisoners to be on good behavior and truly transform themselves which is the goal of correctional homes or prisons in the long run.
Thus, it becomes important that prisoners are made aware of such provisions by displaying them in prison premises and such a move is welcome, for being adopted in prisons all across the country.
The complete judgement may be read here:
Detention order of accused already in custody must justify preventive detention: MP High Court
NIA court failed to take humanitarian approach: Bom HC grants temporary bail to Surendra Gadling
Release remaining Bhima Koregaon accused: CJP writes to Maharashtra CM