The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recently sentenced Nagpur Central Prison’s Superintendent, Anupkumar Kumre to seven days in jail for contempt of court after finding that he had selectively denied prisoners emergency parole during the COVID-19 pandemic
A Bench of Justices Vinay Deshpande and Amit Borkar expressed concerns over the selective application of the binding precedent of the High Court.
The court found the superintendent’s actions violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The Court said â€œSelective compliance of binding precedent not only has the adverse effect on rights of poor prisoners and affects the faith of prisoners in the administration of justice but also lowers the dignity of the Court by conveying that binding precedents of this Court can be selectively circumvented so as to frustrate the very object of such law of precedent, thereby undermining the dignity of the Courtâ€.
â€œIf the Court finds that the Government’s action in rejecting the grant of parole to a prisoner has the effect of suffocating the Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution of India, in that case, the Court must act to restore the rule of law and respect the residuary fundamental rights of the prisoners,â€ the court observed.
Kumre was also fined five thousand rupees and was given ten weeks to seek relief from the Supreme Court despite tendering an unconditional apology.
The High Court stated that accepting the apology would set a bad precedent and would encourage more such actions from jail superintendents in the future. It highlighted that the apology was tendered by Kumre only after his justifications failed.
Kumre was ruled to be guilty of 41 counts of contempt of court as he not only rejected 35 eligible jail inmates’ plea for emergency parole during the COVID-19 pandemic but let out six ineligible inmates.
â€œThe purpose of releasing a prisoner on parole or furlough is to reform him. When the prisoners are sent from jail to Society, their conduct is watched, and if they give a good account of themselves, the Rules provide that their sentence can be shortened. The purpose is also to give an opportunity to the prisoner to mix up with the members of his family and the Society so that he may feel that he is also a member of the Society,â€ the Court observed.
The Court ordered the Commissioner of Police and the Additional Chief Secretary (Jail and Prisons) to launch a departmental investigation for contempt after discovering multiple discrepancies in Kumre’s affidavit.