The Legal Implications of Parole in India

Parole is an integral part of the correctional process. It is nothing but an instrument of social rehabilitation of the prisoner. In recent times, however, the concept has seen a wide shift with parole been utilized by the rich and influential class to escape the prison sentence. Thus, we have the infamous examples of Manu Sharma, Bibi Jagir Kaur or Biti Mohanty who are enjoying the intermittent bliss of free life, even after committing heinous offences and conviction. In contrast, stands the lakhs of other prisoners, whose pleas of parole fall in deaf ears, and being poor and uninfluential, they do not have means to utilize the process or are unjustifiably refused the benefit on flimsy grounds.

Philosophy Behind Parole:

The word ‘Parole’ comes from the French word “je Donne ma parole” meaning ‘I give my word’, while the dictionary definition is ‘word of honour’. The term ‘parole’ was first coined in a correctional context in 1847 by Samvel G. Howe, a Boston penal reformer. Later, Parole was introduced by Brockway Zebulon in the year 1876 as a way to reduce jail overcrowding and at the same time as a way to rehabilitate prisoners by encouraging them to win their way out of prison through good behaviour. Parole is the reward which is granted to the prisoners for their good behaviour.

Parole had its root in the Positivist School. The Classical School of thought opined that people are free to choose their own conduct. While committing any crime, an offender always calculates his gain, his pleasure, at the cost of other’s pain. The offender might have committed an offence, but it is not desirable that he always be labelled and must not be given any chance to rehabilitate himself. Its objectives are twofold: the rehabilitation of the offender and the protection of society. It is a means of helping the inmate to become a law-abiding citizen, while at the same time ensuring that he does not misbehave or return to crime.

Parole provides a chance of reformation to the convict or prisoner. It can have a positive impact on changing the prisoner’s approach to what they have done and made them come to accept that their behaviour was incorrect.

Parole In India:

In India, the grant of Parole is largely governed by the rules made under the Prison Act, 1894 and Prisoner Act, 1900. Each of the States has its own parole rules, which have minor variations with each other. There are two types of parole- custody and regular. The custody parole is granted in emergency circumstances like a death in the family, serious illness or marriage in the family. It is limited to a time span of six hours during which the prisoner is escorted to the place of visit and return therefrom. The grant of parole is subject to verification of the circumstances from the concerned police station and is granted by the Superintendent of Jail.

Regular Parole is permitted for a maximum period of one month, except in special circumstances, to prisoners who have served at least one year in jail. It is granted on certain grounds such as:

  • Serious Illness of a family member
  • Accident or Death of a family member
  • Marriage of a member of the family
  • Delivery of Child by wife of the convict
  • Maintain family or social ties
  • Serious damage to life or property of the family of convict by natural calamities
  • Pursue filing of a Special Leave Petition.

Certain categories of convicts are not eligible for being released on parole like prisoners involved in offences against the State, or threats to national security, non-citizens of India etc. People convicted of murder and rape of children or multiple murders etc. are also exempted except at the discretion of the granting authority.

Judicial Approach towards Grant of Parole In India:

Penological innovation in the shape of parole is claimed to be a success in rehabilitation and checking re-offence. That’s the view of the Indian judiciary.

In Babu Singh and Ors. v State of U.P., Justice Krishna Iyer remarked that “It is not out of place to mention that if the State takes up a flexible attitude it may be possible to permit long spells of parole, under controlled conditions, so that fear that the full freedom if bailed out, might be abused may be eliminated by this experimental measure, punctuated by reversion to prison. Unremitting insulation in the harsh and hardened company of prisoners leads to many unmentionable vices that humanizing interludes of parole are part of the compassionate constitutionalism of our system”.

Misuse of Parole: A Route of escape and Reoffending?

While the notion of parole has been emphasized and re-emphasized by the Judiciary and penologists alike to reduce the ills of prison life, whether parole really serves a purpose or provides a means to escape becomes a significant question. The recent case of Manu Sharma drew the ire of the entire nation towards a casual prison administration, and an even more casual State Government, which granted and vociferously supported the grant of Parole to a convict in the Jessica Murder case.

Another case is Bibi Jagir’s Kaur. Bibi Jagir was jailed for her role in her daughter’s kidnapping. The murder charges against her had been dropped. She was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. She was granted parole just after 4 months of her imprisonment. It was reported that preferential treatment had been extended to her as she was the former Cabinet Minister of Punjab.

Parole also provides a dangerous opportunity for a criminal to engage in criminal activities while on parole. As in Saibanna v State of Karnataka, the appellant killed his first wife and was serving his life sentence. He was released for a month on parole during which time he killed his second wife and child inflicting as many as 21 injuries on the body of the person. The Supreme Court agreed that the case at hand was a “rarest of rare case” involving pre-planned brutal murders without provocation and that the only condign punishment was a sentence of death.

Conclusion and Suggestions:

India among all theories mainly focuses on the reformative style of development, where a criminal is given proper means to reform him or her to because a better person who is fit for the society. Parole and probation are two means that facilitates that.

Parole is one of the most acceptable forms of corrective measures used in the whole world which is because of the fact that one man can never judge whether a person has reformed or not, he or she has to be put in a social scenario. The reason why reformation of a person is so important is that no person is born a criminal it’s just the situation and the upbringing that makes him or her a criminal. In many countries, there is no death penalty because of this sole reason that is why, if the justice system of a country is successful in changing a person from bad to good then it would be a big victory.

One of the main problems with the legal system is that it does not follow the principle of a fresh start as given under the Juvenile Justice Act. A fresh start is crucial for a convicted criminal as the society has already formed a bad image of him or her and now it would be very hard to get a job or work at a place. In my opinion, it would be best to seal his or her records after someone has successfully completed the sentence so that the person can truly live like a free man.


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