The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has sentenced the central prison's superintendent here to seven-day imprisonment for contempt of court.

A Division Bench of Justice Vinay Deshpande and Justice Amit Borkar in its order on Wednesday also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the Nagpur Central Prison superintendent Anup Kumre, and granted him 10 weeks to approach the Supreme Court for relief.

The High Court was hearing a petition filed by prisoner Hanuman Pendam, who approached the HC in July last year after his application for emergency parole was rejected by Kumre.

Pendam had applied for emergency parole in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, under a rule of the Maharashtra government, but the superintendent rejected it, saying the petitioner had absconded for 14 days during leave earlier.

The HC appointed Advocate Firdos Mirza as amicus curiae to study the case and asked the jail superintendent to file an affidavit, giving details of all orders passed by him after the policy of emergency parole during COVID-19 pandemic was introduced.

Kumre in his affidavit mentioned the list of 63 prisoners granted parole, and stated that 90 other prisoners were denied emergency parole after not being found eligible for it as per rules. He also submitted details of six prisoners who reported late after taking leave earlier.

Mirza pointed out that the name of one prisoner, who had reported seven days late after leave earlier, was in the list of 63 prisoners granted parole.

After finding contradictions in the superintendent's affidavit, the HC had directed Nagpur police commissioner to conduct a probe and the additional chief secretary (jail and prison) was ordered to initiate a departmental enquiry.

On December 2, 2021, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection), Chinmay Pandit submitted an inquiry report saying that Kumre had been inconsistent in following the State High Level Committee's recommendations on releasing prisoners on emergency COVID-19 parole.

The inquiry report stated that in some cases, the superintendent had granted the emergency parole to even those prisoners who on previous occasions flouted their parole conditions or returned to the prison late, and refused emergency parole to at least 35 eligible prisoners between May 12, 2021 and August 16, 2021.

During this time period, Kumre had released six prisoners on emergency parole, though they were ineligible for the same, the inquiry report submitted before the HC stated.

The Court then issued a notice to Kumre. It asked him to explain such irregularities and why contempt proceedings must not be initiated against him for not following previous HC orders mandating that recommendations of the state government and the high level commitee on the

release of prisoners be followed uniformly.

On Wednesday, the Bench held that Kumre had failed to justify such irregularities on his part and he stood guilty of contempt of court in not following the HC orders on implementing a uniform.

With PTI inputs