Mumbai : The State Government on Tuesday faced the ire of the Bombay High Court over repeated extension of parole to actor Sanjay Dutt convicted in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case.
The court pulled up the state for showing “extra diligence” in the matter and discriminating between Dutt and other convicts.
“We have seen in many cases convicts approach us stating their parole and furlough applications are not decided for months together and then we have to interfere and direct that their pleas be processed,” the court remarked.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Tushar Pabale challenging the extension of parole granted to Dutt. He also claimed that the divisional commissioner, Pune, has misused his discretion in the matter.
Dutt, who is currently serving the remainder of five-year sentence for his complicity in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, is out on parole since December. In January, his parole was extended for another month and he was to surrender on February 21.
However, Dutt applied for another month’s extension citing his wife Manyata’s ill health, which was allowed by the Pune Divisional Commissioner till March 21.
After pursuing the medical report of Manyata, the court said, “The medical report says she (Manyata) is suffering from TB and requires treatment at home and that she may require surgery in future. But there are also cases where convicts, who are themselves suffering from cancer and other life threatening diseases, are not granted parole.”
“Pain and suffering is equal to all. We are not saying that his wife is not that ill as it is made out to be. But the discrimination is at the hands of the state government,” the court observed.
The court also questioned the state for imposing only Rs 5,000 on Dutt as a bail bond while granting parole. “We have seen a bond of Rs 10,000 to 20,000 being imposed and those who can’t afford it approaching the high court for lowering of the amount. Suddenly in this case you have come down to Rs 5000. The authorities should exercise their discretion properly,” the court said.
The court also directed the Chief Secretary to constitute a Committee comprising senior home, law and judiciary department officials, representatives of jail administration and other competent officers to suggest amendments to the rules and procedure related to screening of parole and furlough applications.
Observing that radical changes were required, the court asked the state to inform it about the steps taken within four weeks.
“We have noticed that the state has issued circulars from time to time asking all divisional commissioners to consider and decide parole and furlough applications in a time bound manner. But these circulars are being violated by your own officers,” the court said.
Petitioner’s lawyer Nikhil Chaudhari argued that while Dutt’s application for parole and then its extension were considered and decided within a week, similar applications of other convicts were kept pending for months together.
“Convicts in the same 1993 blasts case like Zaibunissa Kazi, who is suffering from kidney failure and Farooq Motorwala, whose wife is suffering from a serious illness, had to come to the high court seeking that their applications, which were filed last year, be decided,” Chaudhari said.