Parole is said to be one of the major correctional process in jail reforms. It is for the social rehabilitation of the prisoners, a way to help them to come back into the mainstream of life.
Parole is defined as the conditional release of an offender who has already served a portion of his sentence in a correctional institution. Parole had its root in the Positivist School. The word ‘Parole’ comes from the French word “je donne ma parole” meaning ‘I give my word’, while the dictionary definition is ‘word of honour. The term ‘parole’ was first coined in a correctional context in 1847 by Samvel G. Howe, a Boston penal reformer. The Classical School of thought opined that people are free to choose their own conduct. While committing any crime, an offender always calculates his gain, his pleasure, at the cost of other’s pain. So he must be punished. But the Positivist school argued that it is the circumstance which forces anybody to commit crime. So he must be rehabilitated. From there the thought of parole arose. Therefore it provides a second chance to the prisoner to rehabilitate himself.
In India, the grant of Parole is largely governed by the rules made under the Prison Act, 1894 and Prisoner Act, 1900. Each of the States has its own parole rules, which may have minor variations with each other. There are two types of parole- custody and regular. The Custody Parole is granted in emergency circumstances like death in the family, serious illness or marriage in the family while Regular Parole is allowed for a maximum period of one month, except in special circumstances, to convicts who have served at least one year in prison. The released prisoner remains under the supervision of the paroling authority. Parole may be revoked for violation of parole regulations. There are certain categories of convicts who are not eligible for being released on parole like prisoners involved in offences against the State, or threats to national security, non-citizens of India, people convicted of murder and rape of children or multiple murders etc.
Regulations are laid down which are to be followed by the prisoner on parole such as the paroled person should hold the permit always and should produce on being tendered by any police officer or magistrate or any other competent authority; not associate with notorious bad characters, ruffians and anti-social elements; not indulge in coercing any of the witnesses or complainant to adduce evidence in his favour etc.
In recent times, one cannot deny that the concept of parole been changed in order to suit needs, especially of the “highly influential class” prisoners. They have used parole time and again to escape the prison sentence. We have examples where on the one hand parole was granted to the highly influential class on frivolous grounds, while on the other hand there are lakhs of other prisoners, uninfluential, and do not have means to utilize the process, or were refused the benefit on simple grounds.
Misuse is clearly evident in the case of Sidharth Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs. The State of N.C.T. of Delhi case, where the convict Manu Sharma asked for parole on three grounds: to attend religious rites for his late grandmother, to tend to his ageing mother and, to take care of the family’s business interest. He misused parole and returned to Jail only after he was traced to a Delhi pub enjoying his night life with friends, drinks and dance.
The Bibi Mohanty case, in which the convict, son of a DGP, Orissa, was sentenced for rape of a German national. He was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment along with fine. He was granted fifteen days parole to visit his ailing mother. He escaped and his father pleaded ignorance about his whereabouts. A significant period of seven years elapsed, and the police caught him from Kerala. The convict had changed his identity. His father refused to accept that the person arrested was his son. Court ordered the DNA test to establish his identity.
Another case is that of Sanjay Dutt who was convicted and imprisoned for a period of five years. He was granted Parole time and again in the name of health issues, his wife’s surgery, and daughter’s surgery. In another case Vikas Yadav, a politician convicted for murder of Nitish Katara has come out on parole more than 80 times, taking it to 5 times a month.
These cases depict a lot about the functioning of our administration. It shows the partiality and discrimination allowed and followed in the jail by the administration which most of the times goes unchecked and rectified.
The Code of Criminal Procedure does not contain any provision for grant of parole. By administrative instructions, rules have been framed in various States, regulating the grant of parole. Parole Rules or administrative instructions, framed by the Government are purely administrative in character and for securing release on parole, a convict has, to approach the Government concerned or the jail authorities. Thus in most cases, the executive acts in a mere mechanical manner, without application of mind and appreciation of facts. This raises an important question- Should the Executive have the power of decision making on parole or is the judiciary a more competent authority to decide on matters of freedom of the prisoner? Is it not important that a uniform rules and regulations be framed across the country for grounds of release on Parole? It is said that good behaviour is one of the important grounds for release on Parole. Who decides ‘good behaviour’? What qualities ought to be present in order to fulfil the standards and criteria of good behaviour? It has been found that some of the Applications are merely rejected without stating any grounds. Further no reply to the Applications and RTI’s filed. Who should be held accountable for this? What measures are taken by the administrative and jail authorities to check the corrupt and illegal practices while granting Parole in some of the cases?
Even the Hon’ble Supreme Court and High Courts have questioned the administrative authorities on what grounds parole is granted and why discrimination made between the rich and poor. For instance Hon’ble Justices SC Dharmadhikari and Bharati Dangre of the Bombay High Court in one of the cases directed the State to submit an affidavit detailing the steps followed while granting parole and furlough to an “average” inmate and whether the poor are also granted parole.
It is important to note that the grant of parole is not a matter of right, but a concession granted to the prisoner. The grant is regulated by rules laid down in each State and is a part of executive discretion. Such discretion should not be exercised arbitrarily or capriciously. This call for a significant role to be played by state and jail authorities in this regard. They should understand the offender’s social history. The grounds on which parole to be granted have to be properly examined. The grant of parole should be based on considerations such as: Nature of Offence and circumstances related thereto; Time spent in prison; Conduct of the convict; Previous antecedents, if any; Possibility of engaging in illegal activities, committing crimes, during the period; Possibility of seeking vengeance, causing harassment, in specific categories of crimes. It should be ensured that the convict should not be deprived of his rights as a human being. The liberties and freedoms remain curtailed during the term of sentence. But that should not take away the fundamental humane considerations of life. All are equal in the eyes of law, none is rich or poor, educated or uneducated. Thus different treatment within the prison is uncalled for. It is high time that the administrative and jail authorities act in a reasonable, unbiased and responsible manner.
By Adv. Pinny Pathak