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Denied Emergency Parole Despite Court Order Due To Non-Affordability Of Escort Charges, Two Serial Train Blast Convicts Approach Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
19 July 2021 4:44 AM GMT
Denied Emergency Parole Despite Court Order Due To Non-Affordability Of Escort Charges, Two Serial Train Blast Convicts Approach Bombay High Court
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Two convicts in the 7/11 Mumbai Serial Train Blasts Case have approached the Bombay High Court saying that the 2018 amendment to the prison rules, which makes it mandatory for convicts to pay police escort charges for release on parole following a blood relative's demise, is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Part of Rule 19(1)(B) of Prisons (Bombay Furlough...

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Two convicts in the 7/11 Mumbai Serial Train Blasts Case have approached the Bombay High Court saying that the 2018 amendment to the prison rules, which makes it mandatory for convicts to pay police escort charges for release on parole following a blood relative's demise, is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Part of Rule 19(1)(B) of Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules 1959 renders it impossible for a person coming from a socio-economically weak background to avail the right of parole, the petitioners claim. Both the petitioners have continued to remain in custody since their arrest in 2006 and conviction by a special court in 2015.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar, on Friday, granted time to prosecution to respond to the petitions and adjourned the case for Monday.

The petition filed by Muzammil Shaikh, through advocate Kritika Aggarwal, also seeks directions to the State Government to file an affidavit stating the rates of charges payable to police escorts under the rule.

Second petitioner, Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh, also represented by Aggarwal, has assailed the Nagpur prison Superintendent's order refusing to waive off the Rs. 1.63 lakh escort charges for four days after the HC granted him parole in February 2021. He has sought release for 14 days at the state's expense.

Shaikh had repeatedly sought emergency parole, first to meet his ailing brother, then when his brother passed away in September, last year, and subsequently when his father passed away three weeks later. However, prison officials either rejected the applications filed through his father and son or failed to respond, he states. The petitioner was also unable to participate in his daughter's nikaah, in March 2021, especially in the absence of his father and brother.

"The fundamental essence of Article 14 can be best described when unequal people are given rights, which may be unequal, but treats them equally. The fact that if the Petitioner came from an economically sound family, he would be able to enjoy his four days of parole, shows that the Petitioner's fundamental right is being violated."

Muzammil's petition says that when he was granted one day parole in 2018 by the Supreme Court to meet his mother, he had paid Rs. 70,000 just for the one day. His mother is unwell and admitted to a hospital and he wishes to meet his mother again, but the amount that he would be required to pay is unjustified.

"That very high police escort charges renders the right under Rule 19(1) of Prion Rules 1959, 2018 Amendment meaningless, especially for those coming from economically poor background."

"That despite being eligible for emergency parole, but due to unavailability of financial resources, if a person cannot avail his right, it is in violation to Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution," the petition states.

Both the petitioners were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2015 in the Serial Train Blasts Case. According to the prosecution's case the seven bombs which went off in seven first-class compartments of the Mumbai's local trains on July 11, 2006 were made at Shaikh's house. He lived in a 10X10 feet chawl in Govandi, Mumbai, at that time. Muzammil, a software engineer, was charged with having received training in Pakistan and surveying the local trains for the blasts.

Shaikh and Muzammil have challenged their respective convictions and sentences in the High Court through NGO Jamiat-Ulama-e-Maharashtra.

The plea states that most of the prisoners – under trials and convicts – come from economically marginalised section of the society. It further states that the system of prison welfare in the country is set in the context of reformation and rehabilitation of the convicted prisoner and a Prisoner, though convicted does not cease to be a person, and although his liberty is restricted, he exists as a person.

"The system of Parole and Furlough was enacted with the belief that every individual deserves a second chance. It goes in line with the idea of rehabilitation and reformation of a prisoner. It is a welfare measure and welfare measures are enacted to include the most marginalised. Including the cost of escort charges on the Petitioner and his family, who are economically poor, excludes him from enjoying his right. Article 14 allows equality before law," states the plea.

It adds that since the Petitioners are under the custody of the state, their welfare is the responsibility of the state.

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