New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said it disapproved of the blanket denial of furlough to convicts serving life terms, as incentive of good conduct cannot be denied to the prisoners.
A bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose said: “Even if the appellant is to remain in prison for the whole of remainder of his life, the expectations from him of good conduct in jail would always remain; and the lawful consequences of good conduct, including that of furlough, cannot be denied.”
The bench observed that furlough is an incentive towards good jail conduct, even if the person is otherwise not to get any remission and has to remain in prison for whole of the reminder of his natural life, that does not, as a corollary, means that his right to seek furlough is foreclosed. “While disapproving blanket denial of furlough to the appellant in the orders impugned, we would leave the case of the appellant for grant of furlough open for examination by the authorities concerned in accordance with law,” it said.
The top court noted that in contradistinction to parole, in furlough, the prisoner is deemed to be serving the sentence inasmuch as the period of furlough is not reduced from actual serving period.
“And, the conduct is predominantly decisive of entitlement towards furlough. Thus, even if the appellant would be on furlough, he would be deemed to be serving the sentence for all time to come,” it added.
The top court judgment came on a plea by Atbir. The petitioner said his plea for grant of furlough was declined as in 2012, the President, through an order had commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment and that a condition was imposed that he 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.
The bench said: “We find it difficult to agree with the reasoning in the order impugned and with the contentions that once it has been provided by the President of India that the appellant would remain in prison for whole of the reminder 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 top court set aside the orders by the Delhi High Court as well as the Director General of Prisons. “A fresh report may be requisitioned from the jail authorities and the matter may be proceeded in accordance with law. We would expect the Director General of Prisons to take a decision in the matter expeditiously, preferably within two months from today,” it added.
“Looking to the concept of furlough and the reasons for extending this concession to a prisoner lead us to hold that even if a prisoner like the appellant is not to get any remission in his sentence and has to serve the sentence of imprisonment throughout his natural life, neither the requirements of his maintaining good conduct are whittled down nor the reformative approach and incentive for good conduct cease to exist in his relation. Thus, if he maintains good conduct, furlough cannot be denied as a matter of course.”