Emergency parole is to prevent spread of Covid-19 in jails, not to empty prisons: Bombay HC
The bench dismissed a petition challenging the prohibition on grant of Covid-19 emergency parole to convicts from outside MaharashtraUpdated: Oct 21, 2020, 14:14 IST
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging the prohibition on grant of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) emergency parole to convicts from outside Maharashtra.
The bench observed that the purpose was “only to ensure social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons and not to empty jails altogether”.
“The purpose of enacting Rule 19 (1) (C) of the Maharashtra Prisons (Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959 was not to create a bonanza for convicted prisoners to claim release for being with their families, but to meet the situation created by the pandemic and the nature of its communicable spread,” said the two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices Sunil Share and justice Avinash Gharote, while dismissing the petition filed by Chandradev Rai and Satish Ninapure.
Both the petitioners are convicted for murders in separate cases and are lodged at Morshi open prison in Maharashtra’s Amravati district.
While Rai is a resident of Maharajganj district in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Ninapure belongs to Betul district in Madhya Pradesh (MP).
They were aggrieved by a clause in Rule 19(1)(C) introduced to the Maharashtra Prisons (Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959, on May 8, which prohibited grant of emergency parole to convicts having their places of residence outside Maharashtra.
The rule was applicable to convicted foreign nationals as well.
They were refused the special leave for being residents of other states.
The petitioners had challenged the validity of the clause primarily contending that it was discriminatory, creating an artificial distinction between the convicts, who are residents of Maharashtra and those from other states.
The bench turned down the challenge noting that the clause was based on March 23 recommendations of the state government’s high-power committee (HPC) and was identically worded.
The bench noted that the HC has dismissed a challenge to the HPC’s recommendations and the Supreme Court (SC) has also upheld the decision.
The bench said on May 8, when the notification was issued the country was under a strict lockdown, which was enforced since March 25 in a bid to contain the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
All public transportation, including intra-state and inter-state modes of conveyance, facilities were prohibited because of the lockdown and as a result, the convicts, who belong to other states, could not have travelled to their native places, even if they were released on emergency parole, the bench cited.
The bench further noted that the HPC had recommended on May 11 to extend the benefits to those convicts, who did not belong to Maharashtra, but the directives were to come into force after the lockdown was over and public transportation was available.
The bench pointed out that it was for the state government to consider and act upon the HPC’s recommendations.
The clause (c) of Rule 19(1) of the Maharashtra Prisons (Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959 pertains to medical emergency and the provisions were enacted to address such a specific situation, said the bench.
“Thus, the object of the distinction made, is to achieve the safety of the prison inmates and to quite an extent the same appears to have been achieved, with steps and measures already in force to further improve the situation. The distinction cannot be said to be either arbitrary, unreasonable or discriminatory, as the distinction made, clearly has a nexus and is meant to achieve the purpose,” it added.