Though actor Sanjay Dutt's case may not suggest it, for a prisoner, getting parole is usually a tedious process, requiring the family to do much running around, while an extension is even more difficult to come by.
Speaking to HT after Dutt was granted a second extension to his parole on Tuesday, on grounds of his wife Manyata's ill-health, former jail officials conceded that such extensions are a rarity, when compared with other parole application cases.
A former jail superintendent, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that all prisoners may not be treated equally when it comes to granting parole, and that 'influential prisoners' had it easier. "For a common prisoner, getting parole is a complicated process and requires his or her family member to devote a lot of time and energy. There are several levels of verification and the smallest errors can get derail the entire process. You also need to have a good lawyer."
He added, "In my experience, influential prisoners have managed to get parole more easily. At times, those more deserving of parole continue to languish in prisons."
Parole extensions, he said, are few and far between. "The number of persons who have applied for parole extensions but have not received them is huge."
Dutt has been out of jail since December 21, barely a month-and-half after he was allowed to go on furlough leave for a month for medical treatment. On January 21, he was granted parole for another month, which has now been extended till March. The state has received criticism from several quarters for his prolonged stay out of prison.
A former inspector general (IG)-level prison official said many influential persons serving long sentences had been granted parole more frequently. He said Dutt would not be eligible for further parole this year. In a year, a prisoner can avail of 30 days of parole, which can be extended by 60 days. "However, in case of an emergency, a person who has availed of his parole period is allowed a special leave. He has to be accompanied by a police escort and report back as soon as the special circumstance ends."
Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh said that Dutt should not have been granted an extension to his parole so easily. "There has to be an intensive examination of Manyata's health to confirm she suffers from a serious illness," he said.