Maintaining Good Conduct In Jail Is Pre-Requisite For Grant Of Furlough And Not Remission Of Sentence – Supreme Court
A two-judge Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Aniruddha Bose has held that the whole scheme for the grant of Furlough is based on the approach of reformation and as an incentive for maintaining good conduct.
In this context, the Bench observed –
"On a close look at the decision in the case of Chandra Kant Jha (supra), it appears that the observations of this Court in the case of Asfaq (supra) to the effect that 'Furlough is granted as a good conduct remission' were taken by the High Court as decisive of the matter and leading to the conclusion that furlough is available only if remission is available. With respect, we are unable to agree with this line of reasoning of the High Court. Those observations of this Court in paragraph 14 on the decision in Asfaq (supra) cannot be read in isolation and cannot be read to mean that getting remission is a pre-requisite for obtaining furlough. The whole of the scheme of granting furlough is based on the approach of reformation and as incentive for maintaining good conduct."
The Court also held that since the Appellant, in this case, is a person convicted of multiple murders, whether or not Furlough is to be granted is a matter entirely different and is a matter to be examined by the authorities in accordance with law.
ASG Mr. S. V. Raju appeared for the Respondent, while Counsel Ms. Neha Kapoor appeared for the Appellant – Accused before the Apex Court.
In this case, the Appellant who was serving the sentence of life imprisonment for the offence under Section 302 IPC after the commutation of the death sentence by the President of India preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court on being aggrieved by the judgment of the Single Judge of Delhi High Court. The High Court had dismissed his Writ Petition filed against the order passed by the Director-General of Prisons, Prison Headquarters, Tihar, Janakpuri, New Delhi, declining his prayer to grant Furlough.
The prayer of the Appellant was declined with reference to the conditions of the order of the President of India where the order provided –
"The appellant would remain in prison for the whole of the remainder of his natural life without parole and there shall be no remission of the term of imprisonment."
An application was made by the Appellant who was serving the sentence of life imprisonment for the grant of Furlough under the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018.
The Appellant contended before the Apex Court that terms of the order of the President are of no debarment so far as his entitlement to Furlough under the Delhi Prison Rules 2018 is concerned.
The issue which was dealt with by the Court was –
- Whether the Appellant is entitled to Furlough under the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 despite bar over any remission in terms of imprisonment for the whole of his natural life.
The term 'Furlough' has been defined under Section 2(h) of the Delhi Prison Act 2000 to mean –
"Furlough means leave as a reward granted to a convicted prisoner who has been sentenced to RI for 5 years or more and has undergone 3 years thereof."
The Apex Court disagreed with the reasoning in the impugned order and with the contentions that once it has been provided by the Hon'ble President of India that the appellant would remain in prison for the whole of the remainder of his natural life without parole and without remission in the term of imprisonment, all his other rights, particularly those emanating from good jail conduct, as available in the Rules of 2018 stand foreclosed.
The Bench held that as per the 2018 Rules, the eligibility requirement to obtain Furlough is 3 Annual good conduct reports and not 3 Annual good conduct Remissions.
The Bench in this context observed –
"The expressions employed in Clause (I) of Rule 1223 of the Rules of 2018 are that the prisoner ought to maintain 'Good conduct in the prison and should have earned rewards in last 3 Annual good conduct report' and further that he should continue 'to maintain good conduct'. Even these expressions cannot be read to mean that the prisoner ought to earn 'good conduct remissions.' In the scheme of the Rules of 2018, it cannot be said that earning rewards is equivalent to earning remissions."
The Court also added that even if he would spend some time on Furlough that will not come to his aid so as to seek remission because of the fact that he has to remain in prison for the whole of the remainder of his natural life.
"We need not elaborate to say that depriving of even the concession of furlough and thereby taking away an incentive/motivation for good conduct would not only be counter-productive but would be an antithesis to the reformative approach otherwise running through the scheme of Rules of 2018," the Court noted.
Additionally, the Bench held, "We may also observe that in the impugned order passed by the Director General of Prisons, it has been stated in paragraph 2 that the appellant had not earned the last 3 Annual good conduct reports. Such observations, prima facie, appear to be of mixing up the 'Annual good conduct report' with 'Annual good conduct remissions,' Be that as it may, we would leave all other aspects of entitlement of the appellant to furlough open for consideration of the authorities concerned. However, the appellant cannot be denied furlough with reference to the order dated 15.11.2012. The said order cannot be construed to take away the requirements on the appellant to maintain good conduct; and to take away the rights, if flowing from his maintaining good conduct."
The Bench also opined that if the Appellant maintains good conduct, he cannot be denied Furlough as a matter of course.
While holding that whether the Appellant shall be granted Furlough or not is a matter to be decided by the authorities concerned in accordance with law, the Bench disapproved the blanket denial of Furlough to the Appellant in the orders impugned.
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court. The Court restored the case of the Appellant to grant Furlough for reconsideration before the Director-General of Prisons.