Supreme Court lays down broad principles on Parole & Furlough

Recently, The Supreme Court while setting aside Gujarat High court’s order on granting furlough to Narayan Sai (State of Gujarat v Naranyan Sai,2021) laid down broad principles which distinguish between Parole & Furlough. A division bench comprising Jt. DY Chandrachud & Jt. BV Nagarthana was hearing an appeal against Gujarat High Court’s judgement. Supreme Court relied on Rules 3, 4, 17 of Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules 1959. Rule 3 describes eligibility criteria for grant of furlough to prisoners serving different terms of imprisonment. Rule 4 imposes restrictions on grant of furlough. The respondent’s side was arguing that Furlough is a matter of right of Prisoner.

The bench rejected it as Rule 17 explicitly states “Nothing in these rules shall be construed as conferring a legal right on a prisoner to claim release on furlough.” Also, the use of word “may be released” in rule 3 shows absence of absolute right.

In Asfaq v State of Rajasthan case, The Supreme court had differentiated between the two as follows: 

Conditional releaseConditional release
Granted in short term imprisonment Granted in Long term imprisonment 
Extends to 1 monthOnly for 14 days. 
Granted by Divisional CommissionerGranted by Deputy Inspector General of Prisons
Requires specific reasonsmeant for breaking the monotony of imprisonment.E.g – to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties
Term of imprisonment is not included in the computationTerm of imprisonment is included in the computation
Can be granted number of timesThere is a limitation in granting it

The division Bench laid down the following principles other than mentioned above:

  • Although furlough can be claimed without a reason, the prisoner does not have an absolute legal right to claim furlough
  • The grant of furlough must be balanced against the public interest and can be refused to certain categories of prisoners.

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