Days after Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan defended extension of actor Sanjay Dutt's parole, the state government today faced flak from the Bombay High for showing "extra diligence" in the matter and discriminating between him and other convicts.
The court also directed the state's Chief Secretary to form 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.
"This type of diligence is not shown for all convicts. Why does the state government adopt a casual approach when the convict is a common man?
"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 for their pleas to be processed," a division bench of justices N H Patil and V L Achliya said while hearing a PIL against extension of parole to Dutt, convicted in the 1993 Bombay serial blasts case.
Dutt's parole was recently extended till March 21 by the Pune Divisional Commissioner on ground of his wife Manyata's ill health.
"The medical report says she (Manyata) is suffering from TB and requires treatment at home and that she may require surgery in future. There are cases where convicts who are themselves suffering from cancer and other life threatening diseases are not granted parole," Justice Achliya said after perusing the report.
"We are not saying that his wife is not that ill as it is made out to be. Pain and suffering is equal to all. But the discrimination is done by the state government," observed Justice Patil.
The bench was also critical of the fact that while granting Dutt parole the authority had imposed a bond of only Rs 5000 on him.
"In every other case we have seen bond of Rs 10000, Rs 15000 and 20000 is levied and poor convicts approach high court seeking for the bond amount to be lowered. Suddenly in this case you have come down to Rs 5000. The authorities should exercise their discretion properly," the court said.
While directing the Chief Secretary to constitute a committee to suggest amendments to rules and machinery governing parole and furlough to which, it said, radical changes were required, the bench asked the state government to intimate it within four weeks about steps taken in that regard.