-Report by Bhavana Bhandari

On 24.03.2023, the Supreme Court of India dismissed a plea by a prisoner seeking to allow parole granted during the COVID-19 outbreak to be included as a part of his actual term since it was compulsory in the case of Anil Kumar v. State of Haryana and Others. Taking reference from an earlier court decision, the bench unanimously decided that the period of parole should be aloof when deciding the term of imprisonment.


Anil Kumar, the petitioner, and prisoner, was released on emergency parole as a result of the decision taken by the High-Powered Committee, which was established following the instructions provided by the Supreme Court in SWM (C) No.1/2020. The subsequent directives said that prisoners who had been freed earlier on emergency parole under the High-Powered Committee’s decision should not be ordered to surrender until further orders and not on any application filed by the petitioner or by Section 3(3) of the Haryana Good Behaviour Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 1988, led to the petitioner’s release (hereinafter referred to as the Act, 1988). Whereupon, the petitioner prayed that the court considers the time of parole as part of his real punishment.


The appellant’s counsel argued that in some states, the term of release on interim parole is directed to be considered against the entire duration of imprisonment of the convict/prisoner. If the petitioner had not been granted temporary parole and had instead served his sentence after a predetermined amount of time, he would have been eligible for remission. Moreover, since the petitioner was discharged on interim parole, his entitlement to request a remission would be further prolonged, which would be against the interests of the petitioner if the period in question is not taken into account when calculating the petitioner’s complete sentence.


The learned counsel for the State stated that the petitioner was convicted of the charges under Sections 302/34 of the IPC and sentenced to life imprisonment. Since then, the Apex Court has maintained the conviction and sentence imposed by the learned Trial Court. Hence, in line with the law and the punishment pronounced by the learned Trial Court, the petitioner must serve and complete his full term of life imprisonment.


The court relied on the legal guidelines established in its January 5 decision on a petition submitted by Rohan Dhungat, who is now serving a life sentence for the murder of a person. In Rohan Dhungat’s case, the Apex Court had rejected a challenge to a decision made by the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on Rule 335 of the Goa Prison Regulations and Section 55 of the Prisoners Act 1894 (Extramural care, control, and employment of inmates), which states that the period of furlough and parole shall be considered as part of the sentence except in case there is a breach committed by the prisoner. However, noting that if the inmates’ request for the parole period to be taken into account when calculating the 14 years of real imprisonment is permitted, any prisoner who may be prominent might receive parole several times because there are no constraints on how many times it can be given. If the prisoners’ application is granted, it could undermine the entire goal and purpose of actual imprisonment.


The three-judge bench comprising Justices MR Shah, CT Ravikumar, and Sanjay Karol stated that the court had ruled that this time of release must be disregarded when determining the length of real incarceration. To avoid overcrowding, inmates were granted a term of parole during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this time cannot be added to the prisoner’s real length of imprisonment.
In this instance, the legal issue was whether the Covid leave time of a parolee’s probation may be taken into account when determining the length of the prisoner’s actual sentence. The bench ruled that the petitioner convicted under section 302 (the punishment for murder) must serve the period specified and that the emergency parole term must be subtracted from the sentence; as a result, the court cannot provide relief. While Ms. Ritu Kumar, experienced counsel, addressed the appellant, Ms. Bansuri Swaraj represented the respondents on behalf of the State.


Therefore, the bench declared in its verdict that the suo-moto decision of parole to be granted to convicts during Covid was exclusively to avoid overcrowding and ensure the general health welfare of the prisoners, and shall not be deemed to be part of their real imprisonment in any manner.

READ FULL JUDGEMENT: https://bit.ly/40AKpcU

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