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No preference given to Sanjay Dutt in parole, furlough: Maha govt to Bombay HC

New Delhi: The Maharashtra government has informed the Bombay High Court that it had not given any preference to actor Sanjay Dutt over other prisoners, while sanctioning furlough and parole leave to him during his imprisonment in the 1993 bomb blast case from 2013 to 2016.

“According to provisions in Maharashtra Prison Manual, prisoners are released on furlough and parole after completion of conditions laid down by the sanctioning authority. However, no preference was given to sanction furlough or parole leave to convict Sanjay Dutt,” said Umaji Tolaram Pawar, Superintendent of Yerwada Prison in Pune, in an affidavit. Dutt was released in February, nearly 103 days ahead of the end of his full prison term.

The affidavit was filed recently in response to a PIL by activist Pradeep Bhalekar who alleged that remission granted to Dutt was wrong and illegal as he was preferred over other prisoners who are waiting to get such leave on the basis of rules and good conduct.

The PIL is slated to come up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice V M Kanade next week, petitioner’s lawyer Nitin Satpute told PTI. “What is the good behaviour and conduct that has been held as a ground for granting Dutt remission and reducing his sentence? What about the other convicts especially in petty offences who are rotting in jail. They have also filed applications seeking remission but there has been no order on those,” the petition argued.

Dutt had surrendered in May 2013 after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction by a special court here for possession of arms and ammunition which was part of the consignment used in the Mumbai 1993 serial bomb blasts. During the investigation and the marathon trial, Dutt spent 18 months in jail. On July 31, 2007, the TADA court in Mumbai had sentenced him to six years’ rigorous imprisonment under the Arms Act and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000. In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling but reduced the sentence to five years following which he surrendered to serve the remainder of his sentence.

During Dutt’s imprisonment, he was granted parole of 90 days in December 2013 and again for 30 days later. According to a government notification, parole leave of 30 days can be extended by a further period of 30 days, the affidavit said. Dutt was first granted parole for 30 days from December 21, 2013. This was extended by another 30 days. Again he was sanctioned parole leave for 30 days from August 26, 2015. On both these occasions, Dutt had surrendered before the authorities in time, the affidavit said.

He was also granted furlough leave for two weeks from October 1, 2013 which was extended by another two weeks. Again he was sanctioned furlough leave for two weeks from December 24, 2014. However, this time he surrendered late on January 10, 2015, by overstaying two days, as per the affidavit. The proposed prison punishment to Dutt as he had breached the conditions of furlough leave by not surrendering in time and overstaying by two days. The proposal was sent to Home Department of Maharashtra government which quashed it and granted two days extension of furlough leave to Dutt which he had overstayed, the affidavit further said.

However, the facilities of parole and furlough provided to Dutt by prison authorities were as per rules and regulations prescribed in Maharashtra Prison Manual and relevant Government Notifications, it added.