The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a Gujarat High Court order, which granted a two-week furlough to rape accused Narayan Sai, son of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, submitted the single-judge order passed on June 24 this year, granting furlough to Sai for two weeks. He added that the division bench had stayed this single bench order till August 13. Mehta contended that the state government has moved the top court challenging the June 24 order.
A bench of justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah issued a notice to Sai on a plea by the Gujarat government challenging the high court’s single-judge order. The bench also stayed the high court order till further orders.
The bench noted that under the Bombay Furlough and Parole Rules, which is also applicable in Gujarat, a prisoner can be granted furlough once every year after the prisoner completes seven years in jail.
The bench pointed out that “the idea of furlough is that a prisoner gets away from the environment of jail and is able to meet his family members”. However, the top court noted that it would have to be examined whether the rules, which allow the annual furlough as per the calendar year or from 12 months after the last one was granted to the prisoner. It queried Mehta what are the grievances with the order.
Citing the rules and judgment of the top court, Mehta contended furlough is not an absolute right and it depends on various factors and added that Sai and his father were arrested for offenses under rape charges.
Mehta further added that the father-son duo wields considerable influence with money and muscle power, and they had even tried to bribe police officials. Asaram is also undergoing life term for another rape case in Rajasthan. Mehta said three prime witnesses crucial to their cases were killed and last year Sai was granted furlough for two weeks as he wanted to visit his ailing mother, which was not challenged by the state.
The bench said the contention, which is supposed to be looked into, is under the rules, it is said a prisoner can avail furlough once every year after he serves seven years in imprisonment. The bench asked Sai’s counsel to file his reply within a week and scheduled the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
On April 26, 2019, Sai was convicted under the Indian Penal Code sections 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 323 (assault), 506-2 (criminal intimidation) and 120-B (conspiracy) by a Surat court and sentenced to life imprisonment.