Bombay HC pulls up prison authorities



Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has laid down certain guidelines for prison authorities to follow while cutting down remissions of prisoners who do not surrender after expiry of parole or furlough period.

The high court pulled up prison authorities for their tendency to use ready-made printed proformas with blank spaces filled in later, to punish convicts by reducing remissions in cases where they do not surrender on time.

A bench headed by Justice Abhay Oak quashed and set aside the impugned order of the prison authorities reducing remissions of Shafi Qureshi, a life convict serving jail term in Yerwarda prison.

Even in the present case, a ready-made printed proforma was used which causes doubts that the orders were issued without application of mind. It must be borne in mind by the prison authority that it shall issue show cause notice to the prisoner and hear him before passing such orders of reducing remissions, the court observed.

"It must be real and not a pretence. A reasonable opportunity of a genuine hearing must be given and not a mere empty formality or mere ritualistic procedural exercise". "It is true that prison authority need not adhere to regular forms of legal procedure like a trial, but it would be sufficient if prisoner is heard in quasi-judicial spirits and in accordance with principles of natural justice," they noted.

The judges also laid down guidelines for prison officials to follow if they were of the opinion that higher prison punishment may be imposed for any prison offence committed, resulting in forfeiture of remission.

Firstly, seven days time should be given to the convict to reply to the show cause notice. Secondly, if sufficient cause is not shown in the reply, a reasoned order may be passed for not accepting the convict's contention.

Thirdly, if higher punishment is proposed against the prisoner then such proposal must be sent to higher authorities to obtain sanction. If such guidelines are followed it would curb lot of unnecessary flow of petitions to this Court, the judges said.

Accordingly, the judges permitted the petitioner to make a fresh representation to the SP (Prisons) to consider the total remission period allowable to him

PTI