Extra Detention Of Poor Man And Celebrity Convict’s Early Release

One is a celebrity and the other an unknown common man. Both are convicted and jailed. Common man suffers 14 days of extra detention and celebrity is released eight months in advance.

M Sridhar Acharyulu

{Professor in Criminal Law at NALSAR University from 2000 to 2013 and Central Information Commissioner (2013-2018)}

Delhi Government has opposed compensation for 14 days of extra illegal detention of Om Prakash Gandhi in Tihar Jail in Delhi, who was fighting for liberty with the help of an RTI petition. In comparison, Maharastra Government is defending the 240 days’ early release of Sanjay Dutt from Yerwada Jail in Pune. If Maharashtra Government fights for liberty of a celebrity, the Delhi Government fights against remedy for illegal detention. Both are based on Constitution, jail manual, prison rules and policies. Then what makes the difference?

This is the story of Rulers and Rule of Law.

While the superstar Sanjay Dutt defended himself from prosecution with the support of a battery of lawyers at every stage for every benefit of doubt and concession available in criminal justice system, poor convict Om Prakash Gandhi in Delhi struggled to get every bit of information through Right to Information Act. What media and lawyers did for Sanjay Dutt, was done by RTI to Om Prakash Gandhi. If the Bombay High Court questions why Sanjay Dutt was released eight months in advance, several months after release, Delhi High Court stays the order of payment of compensation to Om Prakash Gandhi on a writ petition by the PIO of Tihar Jail. The authorities invoked Constitutional provisions against a poor and ordinary convict to prevent payment of compensation for extra-detention, in spite of the remission granted.

The Bombay High Court on 12th June 2017 asked as to how Dutt’s good behaviour was assessed and how he was released early when he was out on parole and furlough during half of his sentence. Delhi High Court said on January 27, 2017, that prima facie CIC has no power to ask for a policy against extra detention or order compensation to Om Prakash Gandhi for that. Section 4 of RTI Act imposes an obligation that public authority should explain the policy to the affected persons. Having no policy on compensating a prisoner detained for more than the remission days seriously affects the liberty of a prisoner and Gandhi was also not informed the reasons for that.

Section 19 (8) (b) of RTI Act says the CIC has power to ask public authority to compensate a complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered. Prima facie Delhi High Court viewed that the CIC exceeded his power in asking for a policy and ordering compensation of Rs 10,000. And, the Delhi Jail Administration must have spend surely more than Rs 10,000 to secure stay against the order, instead of paying the poor convict, who was denied information about his date of  release and details of remission, which led to his extra detention for 14 days. A common man’s freedom from illegal detention has no value, but a celebrity will get all the mercy, kindness of Government to take benefit of eight months’ freedom. What would have happened if Sanjay Dutt was Om Prakash Gandhi and vice versa? Here is a comparison.

Common Convict

Celebrity Convict

Om Prakash Gandhi in Delhi (in white dress)

Sanjay Dutt in Mumbai (in white dress)

Common man with less education, no bank balance, no media attention, in fact no one cares for him. Family is simple and unknown even in the locality. Celebrity himself, millions of fans, hundreds of producers, big family, friends, wife, kids, heroes and heroines to support at any time.
Son of a father and mother, that is all, nothing more needs to be mentioned. Son of celebrity couple Nargis and Sunil Dutt, former MP and Congress leader.
Poor or rich is no criterion if crime is proved. Though poverty is the reason of crime. He is so rich, why should he commit a crime? Family’s contribution is significant.
Convicted under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act for dishonour of cheque for insufficiency of funds.

 

Sentenced to one year simple imprisonment.

On July, 2007, TADA court in Mumbai sentenced him to six years’ rigorous imprisonment under the Arms Act and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 for his role in 1993 blasts case for illegal possession and destruction of an AK-56 rifle.
Could not go in appeal because of poverty. All possible appeals up to Supreme Court.
He could not afford to pay hefty fee. Battery of expert lawyers represented him.
Trial went on for three years. Equal justice, this trial also went on for three years!
As he could not go in appeal, his jail term was not reduced. His great crime is not having enough funds in bank.

 

Supreme Court was kind enough to reduce the sentence for Sanjay from six years to five years.
What if he is in jail without bail? He has no job to do? Better be in jail itself.

 

The poor convict filed 36 RTI applications to get information about remissions. Tihar Jail refused the information in routine, till the CIC intervened and directed it to do so.

Sanjay Dutt is a busy cine hero, several producers had invested huge amounts in him. If their problems are not considered, economy of the country will suffer. Hence the police, lawyers and media collect meticulous details and help the “innocent victim” of circumstances.
He served his sentence in Tihar Jail.

Sentence was up to 24th October 2014. He has collected the information on remission and other aspects through 36 RTI applications and based on that contended that he should have been released on 2nd August 2014. But he was detained for 18 extra days.

He served his sentence in Yerawada Central Prison in Pune and was let out in February 2016, eight months early, on account of his good conduct while in Pune’s Yerwada prison.
He requested for exact date of release prior to 2nd August 2014, but jail authorities did not inform him about it and continued to detain him. They say he was detained to check up whether he was needed in any other criminal case, though there was no such case. There was no such need of RTI request or intervention.

 

He got 90 plus 30 days of parole and 240 days of remission; happily released 8 months in advance.

He got 83 days of remission, as he assisted all wings with his education and computer knowledge, besides maintaining good conduct. He got 240 days remission for good conduct. It is not known what rigorous term he went through or whether he helped in any way.
Though he was put on laborious work, he had to fight for his compensation through RTI applications. He suffered an injury and complained of medical negligence that resulted in injury to leg and permanent reduction in its length. During his imprisonment, Dutt was granted parole of 90 days in December 2013 and later again for 30 days.
He had to struggle all alone through RTI as compensation for being imprisoned for 14 additional days. Celebrities need not struggle. Lawyers and friends will take care of his legal needs. He need not resort to RTI, as media supports him.
CIC asked whether jails have a policy to compensate for extra illegal detention. They say only if court orders, they pay, even if it is breach of Right to Life under Article 21. CIC directed jail authorities to pay compensation for extra detention. Delhi High Court granted stay on CIC order stalling the payment of compensation in Feb 2017. None has asked so far whether jails have any policy for releasing a VVIP convict earlier than the date of release.

 

In June 2017, Mumbai High Court asks Maharastra Government to explain why he was released 8 months in advance?

 

 

No media questions why compensation has not been paid to a poor convict who was detained for extra days. Media calls it fresh trouble for Sanjay Dutt; the caption that reflects their sympathy for him.
Government challenged compensation for illegal detention for 14 days. Section 19 (8) (b) says CIC can ask public authority to compensate for any loss or other detriment suffered. CIC concluded that OP Gandhi was seeking information about his date of release and details of remission much before the date of release. Information was denied and detention was extended. Denial of information resulted in loss and detriment. A Maharastra Government official said: “The Prisons Department has already submitted its affidavit on the actor’s release. No case has been registered against him for default or indiscipline while he was in jail. There was no adverse report from police as well when he was out of the jail. Not a single day of special remission has been awarded to him. He has been treated as an ordinary prisoner all along.”

 

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