The Madras High Court recently pulled up the state prison authorities on being intimated that the police officials accompanying the convicts coming out on parole are taking money in the name of charges from the latter's families.
"If it is happening, then it is illegal and it would amount to bribe", was the strict observation of the bench of Justices R. Kirubakaran and V. M. Hemalatha, hearing a habeas corpus plea to grant ordinary leave for a period of one month without escort to a life convict prisoner at Central Jail, Salem.
The Division Bench made clear that if any such incident is brought to the notice of this Court, then not only departmental proceedings would be initiated against the concerned officials but also action under Prevention of Corruption Act would be taken.
Noting that the convicts are already languishing in jail and do not have any source of livelihood and their families are already suffering, the court vented its ire in stating that in spite of the same, these people are "fleecing" the convicts who come out on parole "without any sympathy".
"The Inspector General of Prisons is directed to make it clear that no amount shall be demanded from the convicts when they come out on parole and the convicts shall also be informed about the same so that if any such incident happens, the same can be promptly report to the authorities", ordered the bench.
Further, the court also reflected that there is no time limit fixed in the Tamil Nadu Suspension of Sentence Rules, 1982 for the disposal of the representation for ordinary leave, and that only in Rule 24, it has been stated that when a petition is submitted to the Superintendent of Prisons, he shall forward the petition along with the reports expeditiously to the Government for orders.
"Merely because there is no time limit fixed in the aforesaid Rules for the disposal of the representation for ordinary leave, it does not mean that the Prison Authorities can sleep over the matter", said the bench.
It proceeded to observe that the very purpose of giving the representation gets frustrated on account of the delay, compelling the prisoners or their family members to approach the Court by filing writ petitions- "The convicts and their families are already suffering because of incarceration and even the result of the representation is not given in time, it will be injustice to them"
The bench remarked that oaccount of failure to dispose of the representation for ordinary leave or not granting of ordinary leave/parole in time, the parties are compelled to file writ petitions by spending money and it would add insult to the injury.
Accordingly, the court required that whenever a representation for ordinary leave is received, either by the Government or by the Prison Authorities, the authorities shall get a report from the Probation Officer and Local Sub Inspector of Police, if necessary, within one week and along with the reports, the Prison Authorities shall forward the same to the Government for passing appropriate orders. After receipt of the representation, the Government shall pass appropriate orders and intimate the same to the relatives or family members of the prisoners or to the prisoners within a period of one week.
"The above two weeks time limit would do justice to the parties. The aforesaid time limit shall hold good and shall be scrupulously followed by the authorities concerned till Tamil Nadu Suspension of Sentence Rules are amended incorporating two weeks' time in the Rules for the disposal of the petition for grant of ordinary leave", ruled the bench.
The Court even made clear that if the parties are compelled to approach the Court on account of failure to dispose of the representation for ordinary leave within the time limit fixed by this Court, the expenses incurred for the legal proceedings initiated by the convicts or their family members shall be borne out by the authority, who failed to dispose of the representation in time.
Accordingly, the bench issued the following directions:
(i)The Government is directed to make appropriate amendments in the Rules indicating two weeks' time limit for disposal of the representation for ordinary leave;
(ii) Till such amendment is made, the above time limit shall be in force and shall be scrupulously followed by the authorities;
(iii)If the time limit is not adhered to, it would amount to Contempt of Court and the parties are at liberty to approach this Court with contempt petition.
(iv)The expenses incurred by the parties for approaching the Court for not disposing the representation for ordinary leave shall be borne by the authority who failed to dispose of the representation
Click Here To Download Order