Does the Law Allow Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to be Granted Parole?
Controversy has erupted over a parole request submitted by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, who was convicted for rape in 2017 and murder in 2019.
Following the submission of the request, a decision now needs to be taken by the divisional commissioner of Rohtak, Haryana, under whose jurisdiction the Sunaria jail, in which Singh is lodged, falls. The divisional commissioner will in turn consider the report of the Sirsa deputy commissioner, who has to assess whether the request is appropriate or not. Sirsa police have approached local revenue officials to inquire about the land owned by Ram Rahim Singh.
But is there an actual chance that he could get parole and be allowed out of jail? Does the law allow convicts like him to get parole? And can this be availed for these reasons?
When Can a Prisoner Get Parole in Haryana?
Parole falls within the framework of law and order, and is therefore something which states have their own laws on.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said that every prisoner has the right to parole under the law, adding that:
“There are certain legal procedures and a person who has the right to seek parole can seek it. We can't stop anyone. As of now, no decision has been taken on Ram Rahim's parole.”
The law on parole in Haryana can be found in the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act 1988. For parole to be granted, certain conditions need to be met.
Section 3(1) of this Act says that any prisoner can be released temporarily by the state government after consultation with a relevant officer of the district administration, if the state government is satisfied that
- a member of the prisoner’s family has died or is seriously ill, or the prisoner is seriously ill;
- the prisoner is getting married, or the prisoner’s close family is getting married;
- the prisoner’s presence is necessary for an agricultural operation on the prisoner’s land or their father’s undivided land, which is “actually in possession of the prisoner”; or
- it is “desirable to do so for any other sufficient cause.”
Ram Rahim Singh is evidently trying to claim parole under the third condition, for which a prisoner can get a temporary release of up to six weeks in a year. There are no restrictions on parole requests in terms of the length of the sentence, the gravity of the crime, or the amount of time already spent in prison.
Should the Parole Request be Granted?
The jail superintendent claims that the convict’s behaviour in prison has been good, and that he has not created any trouble during his time there.
However, this cannot be a basis to order his release, and there appear to be strong grounds to reject the Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s request for parole.
- First, News18 reports that the revenue department in Sirsa has submitted a report to the district administration that Ram Rahim Singh does not own any land of his own in Sirsa. The Dera Sacha Sauda does own land, but none of it is in his name – this would mean that the necessary condition for his parole on the grounds of agricultural work cannot be met.
- Secondly, the condition of needing to go for agricultural work is unlikely to be met, as this requires the release of the prisoner to be necessary for harvesting, sowing, etc. It is difficult to see how this could be justified in Ram Rahim’s case, as the land of the Dera has enough people to work it.
- Thirdly, even if in some way the conditions of Section 3(1) are considered to be met in this case, his release can be blocked on the grounds of Section 6 of the Act. According to this provision, no prisoner is entitled to parole if the state government is satisfied that the prisoner’s release “is likely to endanger the security of the state or the maintenance of public order.”
Earlier this year, the Punjab & Haryana High Court had rejected interim bail application filed by the convict for attending the wedding ceremony of his foster daughter(s), citing the danger to law and order that this might create. While these observations took into account the national elections, the court also opined that there might be difficulty in rearresting Ram Rahim Singh. When he was convicted of rape in August 2017 there had been severe violence in Panchkula, leading to 30 deaths, as well as an alleged attempt to break him free.
Keeping these factors in mind and the decision of the high court, it does not appear that releasing Ram Rahim Singh on parole would comply with the law.
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