In Yogi's Ram Rajya, Three ‘Rams’ and a ‘Krishna’ released from prison
A state government which has consistently and stubbornly opposed bail to Dr Kafeel Khan and journalist Siddique Kappan, has been generous to criminals, three of them named ‘Ram’
Athousand convicts released on parole from prisons in Uttar Pradesh are said to be absconding. The state’s chief secretary has admitted to serious lapses and tendered an apology to the Allahabad High Court. But there is much more than meets the eyes, it would seem.
Paroles were granted following a Supreme Court direction in March, 2020. In view of the pandemic and overcrowded prisons, the apex court directed all states to constitute a high-powered committee to decide on paroles. It recommended that under-trials awaiting trial for offences that carry a maximum sentence of seven years or those convicted up to seven years be granted parole because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As many as 68,000 undertrials and convicts were subsequently released across the country. In Uttar Pradesh, however, even those in prison for murder, rape, dacoity and other serious offences carrying much harsher punishment were also released on parole. “This could not have happened without connivance and complicity of political masters and officials,” conceded several lawyers who are familiar with the case.
Ironically, Yogi Adityanath’s government, which takes considerable pride in claiming that it has dealt with criminals with a heavy hand, also released convicts from the death row! The question is why. Does the impending assembly election in the state have anything to do with it?
As many as four such convicts, sentenced to death by the lower courts, were released from a single jail in Faizabad. Their appeals are pending in the high court but all four of them were released on parole, not once but thrice and each time for 60 days each.
These four convicts, namely Krishna Murari, Raghav Ram, Kashi Ram and Ram Milan, were first released on parole on May 26 after the second wave of the pandemic had passed. They were subsequently released again on August 12. The third time they were ordered to be released on parole was on December 2, 2021.
These four are apparently not the only ones to have enjoyed compassionate treatment. As many as 22 life convicts were also released from Moradabad Jail.
According to the state government, 2,256 convicts were released on parole on the recommendation of the committee. Four of them are said to have died while on parole and 693 prisoners returned after the parole got over. Attempts are being made to get back others as well! That the task is not easy is evident from the experience of Aligarh Jail. Out of the 69 prisoners released on parole, the government conceded, only 10 returned after the parole got over. The remaining 59 absconded.
Half of the absconders were arrested by the police and brought back while the other half continue to be absconding.
Eyebrows have been raised because the Yogi Government is hardly known for its kindness. Dr Kafeel Khan of Gorakhpur oxygen crisis fame was denied bail for almost two years. Former minister Azam Khan and family were also denied bail. Former IPS officer Amitabh Thakur has been in jail for nearly six months for tweeting about a case. The state government has consistently opposed bail for journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested while on his way to Hathras to report.
Prisoners, says Allahabad High Court lawyer Shakeel Abdi, have the right to apply for parole. They can also appeal to the high court if their request for parole is turned down. Eminent criminal lawyer Majid Memon explains that paroles are of two kinds, Custody Parole and Regular Parole. Custody paroles are generally allowed for limited period of six hours or so and the prisoner is sent out with police escort.
Regular paroles are granted only to the convicts and only after they have completed one year of the sentence. Regular paroles are allowed for only one month at a time and requires the consent of the respective DM, SP, the Jail Superintendent and the state’s Home Department.
In any case, convicts sentenced for murder and rape cannot be released on parole, emphasise lawyers.
The question is how, in that case, in the Ram Rajya of Yogi Adityanath, rules were ignored and convicts released not once but thrice in eight months?
It does look like a fit case for the Election Commission to look into it.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)