No uniformity in parole and furlough rules

Source– The post is based on the article “No uniformity in parole and furlough rules” published in The Hindu on 6th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Judiciary

Relevance– Criminal justice system

News– The article explains the issues related to the system of Parole and Furlough followed by states.

What are legal provisions related to Parole and Furlough?

The Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prisoners Act, 1900 did not contain any specific provision pertaining to parole and furlough. However, Section 59 of the Prisons Act empowers States to make rules for the shortening of sentences and for rewards for good conduct.

Prisons  fall in the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Therefore States can legislate on issues related to prisons.

What are issues with the system of Parole and Furlough followed by states?

The Uttar Pradesh rules provide for the ‘suspension of sentence by the government generally up to one month. Maharashtra’s rules permit release of a convict on furlough for 21 or 28 days and on ‘regular parole’ for 45 to 60 days.

The recently revised rules of Haryana permit regular parole to a convict up to 10 weeks in two parts. Furlough is allowed for three to four weeks in a calendar year, and emergency parole up to four weeks.

What does it mean by Furlough and Parole?

It is considered as an incentive for good conduct in prison and is counted as a sentence served. Parole or leave is mostly a suspension of sentence.

Emergency parole or leave is granted for specified emergencies such as a death, serious illness or marriage in the family.

Regular parole or leave is granted after serving a minimum sentence in prison. Some States include other familial and social obligations such as sowing or harvesting of agricultural crops, essential repair of houses.

Haryana has a long list of ‘hardcore’ prisoners who are not entitled to be released except on ‘custody parole’ under certain conditions.

What is the way forward?

There is a need for a common legal framework in place to guide the States and check misuse. Otherwise, arbitrariness will endanger the entire criminal justice system.

At least half of the States should come together to request the Central government to legislate a common law for the country on parole and furlough.

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