Observing that irrespective of the crime a man commits, he is still a human, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court came down heavily on the jail authorities of the Nagpur central prison after noting the sorry state of affairs prevailing there. The HC noticed that the prison superintendent acted arbitrarily and didn't grant the emergency Covid parole leave to numerous eligible prisoners and instead released inmates, who weren't eligible for the emergency leave.
A bench of Justices Vinay Deshpande and Amit Borkar, in an order passed on October 8, noted that the jail superintendent Anupkumar Kumre had "picked and chosen" a few prisoners and had released them on emergency parole leave while denied the right to genuine and eligible inmates.
Before discussing the facts of the case, the bench referred to the observations of the Supreme Court which from time to time has held that the criminal justice falls under the umbrella of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
"A constant endeavour of the Apex Court has been to humanize the prison administration by various pronouncements by laying emphasis on the rights of the prisoner to the integrity of his physical and mental personality," the judges noted, adding, "The parole system has been held to be reformative process and is expected to provide opportunity to the prisoner to transform himself into a useful citizen."
"We may add that regardless of crime a man may commit, he is still a human and being a human, has feelings too," the judges observed.
The bench was seized with a plea filed by prisoner lodged in the Nagpur Central Prison, who was denied parole by Kumre in June this year. The parole leave was denied on the ground that the prisoner in question didn't return on time, when he was previously released on the emergency leave owing to pandemic.
The prisoner, however, clarified that he had surrendered before the prison authorities on time, however, he wasn't allowed to enter the prison since he didn't have a Covid negative report. And despite his attempts to get tested in a public health centre, he couldn't get himself tested and had no money to undergo a test in a private facility.
Noting these facts, the judges said, "The acts of Kumre demonstrate that he is exercising his power with arbitrariness as if there is no control of either the court or any superior authority over him. The solitary instance of arbitrary exercise of power would not have prompted us to pass such an order but considering the history of his conduct of showing scant regard to the orders of the Court, constrains us to pass thepresent order."
The judges then referred to two specific judgments of the HC at Nagpur and Aurangabad benches, wherein it has been specifically held that prisoners, who have failed to surrender on time, on a previous occasion wouldn't be entitled to parole leave.
"Inspite of the binding precedentKumre has released at least five prisoners out of six after the judgment of this court holding that the prisoners who surrendered late were not entitled for emergency parole, he released them on parole," the judges noted.
"Numerous orders passed by Kumre shows that he has selectively chose to allow emergency parole pleas of certain prisoners but refused torelease few prisoners who he thought it fit not to be released, inspite of clear verdict of this Court," the judges took into account.
The bench further took into account a letter written by a prisoner in August 2021 stating that the prisoners in Nagpur prison were not communicated of their right of being released on emergency parole though prisoners in Pune and Nashik prisonshave been released on emergency parole leave.
"This shows that the few selected prisoners were picked up by the jail authorities to communicate themabout their right of being released on emergency parole leave in and remaining prisoners who were not made aware of their right, were keptaway from applying for emergency parole even after the period of one and a half years," the judges said, adding, "This reflects a sorry state ofaffairs in Nagpur Prison."
The judges, accordingly ordered a thorough probe and disciplinary enquiry against Kumre. A further directive has been issued to the commissioner of police, Nagpur to appoint a DCP level officer to carry out the probe against Kumre and also to probe into the contention that only a few prisoners were informed of their rights.
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