The Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra government how actor Sanjay Dutt was granted parole and furlough in quick succession and within two months of surrendering to serve his five-year sentence in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. The High Court also sought to know how is the good conduct and behaviour of a convict ascertained, and on what basis and criteria the actor was granted early remission.
A division bench of Justices RM Savant and Sadhana Jadhav noted that Dutt surrendered in May 2013 and in July he filed applications seeking to be released on furlough and parole. "On July 8, 2013, he (Dutt) filed for furlough and then on July 25 he sought to be released on parole. Both the applications were allowed and that too concurrently," Justice Jadhav said.
"How did the jail authorities ascertain good behaviour and conduct within two months of the convict surrendering? Normally the superintendent of jail would not even forward the applications. The authorities would throw out the application," Justice Jadhav added.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbakoni told the court that Dutt was not given any preferential treatment, but if the court feels and comes to the conclusion that the state government has erred in granting him early remission, it can direct Dutt to go back to jail.
"We do not want to set the clock back in time. We are not for a moment suggesting that he (Dutt) go back to jail. But we only want such issues to be streamlined so that in future no questions are raised," Justice Savant said.
"We only want to know on what basis and criteria he (Dutt) was granted early remission on good conduct? How is this good conduct and behaviour ascertained? Our conscience has to be satisfied that all this was done in accordance with law," the judge added.
The High Court said it has observed that in several cases furlough and parole are not given even when the mother or father of the convict is on death bed. "Dutt got furlough first for his wife's illness, then parole on grounds of his daughter's illness. We have seen cases where the convict's mother is ill and on her death bed but still parole or furlough is not given," Justice Jadhav said.
The bench has directed the Maharashtra government to file a detailed affidavit within two weeks. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by city resident Pradeep Bhalekar, questioning the regular paroles and furloughs granted to Dutt when he was serving his sentence. In his petition, Bhalekar alleged Dutt was given undue favour by the prisons department by granting him remission. The state government had earlier this month submitted a report to the high court saying no special treatment was meted to the actor.
The government had said Dutt was granted remission on account of his "good behaviour, discipline and participation in various institutional activities such as physical training, educational programmes and for performing the allotted work."
"The Maharashtra Prisons (Remission System) Rules provide for remission of up to three days per month for good behaviour, discipline and so on. In the present matter at hand, as per the rules, the accused (Dutt) is entitled for 256 days remission which comes to eight months and 16 days," the report said.
During the investigation and the marathon trial, Dutt spent 18 months in jail. On July 31, 2007 the TADA court in Mumbai sentenced him to six years rigorous imprisonment under the Arms Act and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000. In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling but reduced the sentence to five years following which he surrendered to serve the remainder of his sentence. During his imprisonment, he was granted parole of 90 days in December 2013 and again for 30 days later.