Freedom Unbound: Bombay High Court Upholds Prisoner Furlough Despite Model Code of Conduct

The Bombay High Court recently criticized the refusal of the Harsul Central Prison Superintendent to release a convict on furlough, citing the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during the Lok Sabha Elections. In the case of Ganesh Bhaurao Ghatol vs State of Maharashtra, a division bench comprising Justice Mangesh S Patil and Justice Shailesh P Brahme observed that the petitioner, Ganesh Bhaurao Ghatol, had been granted a 28-day furlough by the DIG Prison just five days prior to the MCC notification.

However, despite this, the Jail Superintendent declined to release Ghatol, who is serving a life sentence, after communication with the SDPO of Itwara in Nanded.

In a ruling on May 6, the Court highlighted the absence of any rule granting the jail superintendent authority to countermand the decision of the DIG (Prison). The bench firmly asserted that once furlough is granted by the competent authority, any attempt by the subordinate, such as the Superintendent of Central Prison, Harsool, to cite the model code of conduct during elections is both incorrect and amounts to defiance of superior orders.

The Court stressed that if the jail superintendent wished to proceed cautiously due to the model code of conduct, they should have consulted the DIG first. However, it appears no such consultation took place, as the superintendent neglected to inform their superior. Consequently, the furlough order stands valid, while the Superintendent of Central Prison, Harsool, refrains from implementing it, effectively disregarding it.

Strongly condemning the jail superintendent’s actions, the Court mandated the immediate release of the convict and directed the officer to justify his stance. On May 10, the superintendent informed the Court that in July 2019, the DIG (Prison) had communicated that even prisoners granted furlough must ensure they wouldn’t breach the model code of conduct before release.

Upon receiving this clarification, Ghatol’s petition was resolved.

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About the Author: Payal Singh