Jail for Poor, Furlough for Rich

BY SUNIL DANG

Is it pure coincidence that the rich & mighty get away with seeking paroles & furloughs as & when they please, while those of a lesser God keep braving the odds? Isn’t it a shame how the existing system bends to provide for a seamless passage to the ones who can afford to circumvent the procedure & subvert the policy.

It is baffling though that even when the developed nations have woken up to the problem of growing inequalities and are trying to do something about it, we in India have chosen to stay stuck with archaic rules & not do much about reforming prisons or work for the rights of convicts. Here, the underlying thinking among the privileged classes is that inequalities are meant to be preserved, and indeed expanded further. While every effort is made that the rich do not suffer the fangs of incarceration, the poor & deprived continue to rot due to lack of legal, financial, systemic & moral support.

Going back in history, the very concept of justice was fundamental to the practice of “dharma”. Every member of thesociety was required to abide by the rules and norms ofthe society and any transgression was to be punished. From such principle follows the punishment for acts of omission, commission, crime against humanity,the quantum & severity depending on the nature of the crime &the rarity of indiscretion. Consequently there are remedial measures adopted to grant the deserving ones their right to freedom & these come by way of furloughs & paroles. It is here that the high & mighty get better of the systemic flaws, poking fun at the system by buying occasional free outings for themselves.

Perhaps India’s glamorous prisoners have grasped prison manuals & guidelines better in their free time when they have nothing to do. So while their stay inside the jails is supported by air conditioners, television, newspapers & magazines, food from five-star hotels, cushy beds to private parties& their completely non-chalant attitude towards prison authorities, they have more or less converted prisonsinto ashrams. And guess how it would be for the ones who can afford none of this?

With extraordinary tales of the influential cocking a snook at the authorities, it would be terrible for the criminal justice system not to treat every case on its merit. Such is the sorry state of hundreds of undertrials languishing in jails, that the scene feels nauseating to say the least. Do we reckon what is the primary purpose of imprisonment? Is it actually reform, punishment or just misusing the system we are a part of?

Think of politicians like Amar Singh, A. Raja and Pappu Yadav, AncaVerma (wife of arms dealer Abhishek Verma), Sasikala, Star India CEO Peter Mukherjea, Sanjeev Nanda, Vikas and Vishal Yadav, Manu Sharma,O.P Chautala, Sanjay Dutt etc. They have all benefitted from the shady furlough system. Apart from certain depictions in popular culture or the occasional news report, there is little information about how rules are bent and law takes a backseat when it comes to powerful people who are given special benefits and often sent out on parole and furlough for “good behavior”.

Obviously, all thishappens simply because of the clout and influence,that the high & mighty wield, while the parole applications of the children of a lesser God have been gathering dust in some government office or the other. Despite the court having directed the governments from time to timeto revise the existing rules for parole and furlough so that all prisoners can be treated fairly and equitably, little progress has been made on this front.