Taking cognizance of the allegations against jail authorities demanding bribes for processing the applications filed by prisoners seeking emergency parole or furlough, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered Chief Judicial Magistrates (CJM) of all the districts to visit the prisons and conduct a thorough inquiry from the inmates if the authorities have sought any kind of illegal gratification. The HC has expressed its displeasure over jail authorities for not paying any heed to its series of orders, interpreting the May, 2020, notification issued by the Maharashtra government for releasing prisoners on parole or furlough in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Justice Mukund Sewlikar took up suo moto proceedings while deciding an application filed by two prisoners seeking emergency parole/furlough under the COVID-19 notification issued in May.
Notably, Justice Nalawade, as in various applications of inmates, has interpreted the notification and has passed orders from time to time. However, the judge was irked to note that despite his orders in place, especially the one to decide such pleas of prisoners within 15 days, the jail authorities have continued not to follow the same.
"These directions were given to see that there is transparency and fairness on the part of the jail authorities. Though such orders are passed, filing of similar proceedings is still going on. The jail authorities, it appears, are not ready to follow our orders," Justice Nalawade said in his orders.
"We cannot ignore that there are many prisoners who are behind bars and are eligible to get emergency parole. There is a possibility that some prisoners who are eligible are not given benefit for ulterior motive. As there are allegations of corruption against some officers, we think such acts are serious and thus an inquiry must be conducted," the judge added.
The judges, accordingly, ordered the CJMs of all the districts to visit all the jails, under their jurisdiction and speak to prisoners and ascertain if the authorities have informed them about the notification, whether any illegal gratification is demanded or any frivolous condition is imposed, amongst others. The CJMs are further ordered to submit their report within three weeks.
Meanwhile, a directive has been issued to the jail authorities to provide PPE kits for the CJMs and to sanitize the jails during the inquiry.