892 convicts released on parole during Covid didn’t return to jail yet

Published on Jul 06, 2022 12:27 AM IST

So far, the prison department has registered 86 FIRs against such absconding criminals and police are hunting them

Following this order, the prison department started reviewing the parole status of all the prisoners who availed emergency parole (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
Following this order, the prison department started reviewing the parole status of all the prisoners who availed emergency parole (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
ByVijay Kumar Yadav

Mumbai As many as 892 prisoners who were convicted in various serious criminal offences and were allowed to go home on Covid emergency parole during the pandemic have not returned to the jails. This has prompted the state prison department to register fresh offences against these prisoners who have gone off the police radar.

So far, the prison department has registered 86 FIRs against such absconding criminals and police are hunting them.

The prison department had released 4,241 convicts lodged across 46 prisons in the state Covid Emergency Parole during the initial phase of pandemic. Of these, 892 prisoners failed to return to the jail despite sufficient time given to them to surrender. “Many of these absconding prisoners are convicted in serious offences such as murder and attempt to murder, etc.,” a prison department official said requesting anonymity.

After the Maharashtra government revoked all restrictions imposed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 on May 1, the state home department issued an order regarding the temporary parole on May 4, directing all the convicted prisoners to return to jail. The home department also clearly directed the prison department to register cases under section 224 (resisting lawful custody) of Indian Penal Code against those who did not return.

Following this order, the prison department started reviewing the parole status of all the prisoners who availed emergency parole. As many as 3,340 prisoners returned to jail within the stipulated time and those who failed to return, the police station concerned were intimated. “Once the police also confirm that the convict has gone out of their radar, then our staff lodge an FIR against them,” another prison official said.

“We have initiated action as per the government’s May 4 order, which directs the prison department to lodge FIRs if the convicts do not return,” said additional director general Sunil Ramanand, holding additional charge of state prison department.

When asked if the miscommunication could be one of the reasons for the high number of convicts not returning to the jail, Ramanand said, “There is no such possibility. The convicts, who are supposed to give regular attendance at the local police station are well aware that the government has now withdrawn the earlier order extending their emergency parole.”

Another jail official explained that before giving emergency parole to any convict, the prison department first takes a police’s report from the police station under whose jurisdiction the conviction would be stayed. This police report is basically to know if the said prisoner’s presence in the area would cause any danger to anyone and the convicts are not allowed to stay at the place or nearby where s/he has committed the crime.

The officer further also said that there is no question about convicts being not aware of completion of their parole period. A convict is given parole only after he furnishes two people’s surety. On parole, s/he mandatorily has to appear at the police station everyday to mark their attendance.

Madhurima Dhanuka, head, prison reform programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said, “We should be looking at the purpose of imprisonment. If reformation and reintegration of prisoners back into the society is the objective then instead of recalling prisoners -- most of whom have now spent considerable time outside the prison reunited with their families and the society -- back to the prison, the state should setup a special sentence review board to review all such cases and recommend early release. During this process, they should be permitted to remain on parole. Given that prisons continue to be overcrowded, even more so in 2022 as compared to 2020, recalling a person (convict) released on interim parole, isn’t aligned with the purpose of imprisonment - and instead of encouraging reform, might lead to more crime.

Of the total convicts who were given the emergency parole, five have died and some were acquitted. As per the latest information available with the prison department, 43,507 prisoners are lodged in the 46 jails across the state against the overall capacity of 24,722. The State prison department currently also has 29 active Covid cases.

Murder convict booked

The Dharavi police on June 30 lodged an FIR against prisoner Ravi Narsappa Mhetre on the complaint of Kolhapur Central prison department for not returning to the prison after his emergency Covid Parole was over. Facing life imprisonment in a murder case, Mhetre was released from the Kolhapur jail on June 10, 2021.

As per the government’s new order, he was given the time to surrender or return to the jail by June 4, 2022. When he did not turn up, the Kolhapur Central Prisons department filed a case under section 224 (resisting lawful custody) against him.

Two brothers convicted for molestation booked again

Two brothers, who were sentenced to three months in jail in a molestation case, jumped emergency parole and are now facing another case, in which they can be put behind the bars for two years.

Nagpada police have booked Ramesh Sahdev and Santosh Sahdev, on the complaint of Arthur Road Central prison, as the two did not return to jail. The two were convicted for three months in a molestation case in March 2020. They were released on parole on April 25, 2020. When they failed to return, the Mumbai Central Prisons authority filed a case under section 224 (resisting lawful custody) against them.

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