While reiterating that the furlough is not an absolute right and it depends upon various factors, the Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the order of the Gujarat High Court granting 14-day furlough to rape convict Narayan Sai, son of spiritual Guru Asaram Bapu.

The Court also noted that, the proviso to Rule 3(2) of the Bombay Furlough and Parole Rules 1959, provides that a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment may be released on furlough every year after he completes seven years actual imprisonment. Thus, a Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna allowed the appeal of the Gujarat government filed challenging the June 24 order of the High Court granting furlough to Sai who has been convicted for life imprisonment under rape and other charges.

The Apex Court noted the contentions of the Gujarat government that under the rules and as per a previous judgment, furlough is not an absolute right and it depends on various factors. The jail superintendent has given a negative opinion for grant of furlough to Sai as a mobile phone was found from his cell.

On August 12, the Court had stayed the Gujarat High Court's order giving two-week furlough to Sai. The High Court had allowed the application, but stayed the implementation of its order for three weeks on request by the Additional Public Prosecutor to approach the Supreme Court. Later, the government filed the appeal saying Sai and his father wield considerable influence with money and muscle power.

On April 26, 2019, Sai was convicted under Sections 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 323 (assault), 506-2 (criminal intimidation), and 120-B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code by a Surat Court and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2013, Asaram was arrested for allegedly raping a girl in Rajasthan after two Surat-based sisters had accused Asaram and his son of sexual exploitation. The elder sister had accused Asaram of sexually assaulting her between 1997 and 2006 when she lived at his Ahmedabad ashram. The younger sister had accused the godman's son of sexual assault when she lived at Asaram's ashram in the Jahangirpura area of Surat between 2002 and 2005.

The incidents of multiple sexual assaults and unnatural sex with the victim had taken place between 2002 and 2005, but the case against Sai had been filed only in 2013. Sai was arrested from the Delhi-Haryana border in December 2013. When Sai was in jail, the Surat police had claimed to have unearthed elaborate plans to bribe police officers, doctors, and even judicial officers to weaken the case against him.

With PTI inputs