Mumbai, Feb 25: In an embarrassment for the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court Tuesday pulled up it up for showing “extra diligence” to convicted Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in the matter of granting him repeated paroles.
A division bench of Justice N. H. Patil and Justice V.L. Achliya also directed the government to form a committee of senior officials from the home, law and judiciary departments, representatives of jail administration and others to suggest amendments to the rules and procedures related to screening of parole and furlough pleas by convicts.
This committee must submit its report and the state government’s steps in this regard within four weeks, said the bench.
“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?” the judges said, while hearing a public interest petition filed by social activist Pradeep Bhalekar challenging the parole extention granted to Dutt by the state government.
The judges observed that in many cases. convicts approached the high court with a plea that their parole and furlough applications are not decided for months together, forcing the court to intervene and issue directions to process them.
Dutt was recently granted a parole extention till March 21 by the Pune divisional commissioner on grounds that he had to tend to his ailing wife Maanyata.
Examining Maanyata’s medical reports, Justice Achliya said that she was suffering from TB and needed treatment at home and may undergo surgery in future.
“There have been cases when the convicts themselves are suffering from cancer and other life threatening diseases but are not granted parole,” he said.
Justice Patil, while sympathetic to Maanyata’s illness, questioned the state government’s discrimination in such matters.
The judges also criticized the bond amount of Rs.5,000 on Dutt while granting parole when in most other cases, the bond was Rs.10,000 or upto Rs.20,000, against which the poor convicts moved the court seeking lowering the amount.
Dutt was granted a month’s parole Dec. 6, which was extended twice and now he will be out of Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail till March 21.
He has been convicted for five years for his role in the March 1993 Mumbai serial explosions, of which he is serving the remaining 42 months at the YCJ, Pune since May last year.
The latest parole sparked off protests from various quarters including the opposition parties in the state while the union home ministry last week sought a report on the circumstances under which Dutt secured a third continuous parole.