The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Gujarat government’s appeal against the Gujarat High Court order, granting two-week furlough to rape convict Narayan Sai, son of self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna observed that furlough can be granted even without a reason once the convict has served a stipulated number of years in judicial custody. The bench added that the purpose of furlough is to allow the prisoner to continue with family life and integration in society. It was further observed that the grant of furlough is not an absolute right though granted even without a reason, the interest of the convict has to be balanced with the public interest.
“They have a mass following of persons who have loyalty to them. In view of the circumstances, we allow the appeals and set aside the interim judgment and order of the High Court,” said the bench.
The bench observed that the proviso to Rule 3 (2) of the Bombay Furlough and Parole Rules, 1959 provides that a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment may be released on furlough “every year” after he completes seven years of actual imprisonment.
The bench, however, noted that the Jail Superintendent had given a negative opinion for grant of furlough by elaborating that the convict was using a mobile phone within the jail premises and tried to make contact with the outside world. It was further observed that threats have been issued to the investigating team and witnesses on the behest of Sai, offered bribe to public officials.
Godman Asaram Bapu and his son were arrested on a complaint by two sisters for allegedly raping them on different occasions from 1997-2006. Thereafter, multiple incidents of sexual assaults and unnatural sex were noted against the father-son. On April 26, 2019, Sai was convicted under Sections 376, 377, 323 and 506, read with 120B.
The state of Gujarat had challenged the order of the Gujarat High Court, wherein Sai was ordered to be released on furlough for a period of two weeks, observing that the convict has already undergone more than seven years of incarceration. The bench presided by Justice Nikhil S. Kariel further observed that in 2020 the convict was released on furlough for a period of 2 weeks by Gujarat High Court and there was nothing in the order to show that any untoward incident had taken place after the applicant had been released on furlough. The High Court contrary to what was observed by the apex court observed that no illegal activity was reported during the time the convict had been released in the month of December 2020. Though the High Court granted furlough to Sai, upon request made by the Additional Public Prosecutor, a three-week stay was granted. Meanwhile, the state approached the apex court.