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Sanjay Dutt and furloughs: But can other ordinary convicts also get the same, in the same manner
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who is serving a five year jail term after being convicted in Arms act in connection with 1993 Mumbai serial blast had to return back to Yerwada jail on Saturday afternoon, after his application seeking extension of his 14-day furlough by another 14 days was rejected by the Yerwada central jail authorities.

This is not for the first time that Sanjay Dutt had applied for furlough and then the extension. After the actor surrendered in May 2013, he was set free on a 14-day furlough for the first time in October 2013. That furlough was extended by 14 more days for his leg surgery. Then he was granted a 30-day furlough in December 2013 and that too was extended twice on account of his wife Manyata Dutt's illness.

Rules say that a convict, imprisoned for five or more year's jail term can apply for a 14-day furlough once in a year and can seek extension of that furlough for another 14 days under special conditions. It all depends upon the concerned jail authority and the state government to allow or not allow the furlough.

As evident from the Sanjay Dutt's case, the actor's application was dealt with leniency every time he was applying for furlough and then the extension of his leaves. This is probably for the first time that his application seeking extension of furlough was rejected. For which the actor has somehow blamed media for singling out his case as he is a celebrity.

Nothing against the actor, and his furloughs as it is his right to apply and it is the concerned jail authority and the state government's right to decide on it.

But the question is, can other convicts in India also get such frequent furloughs and then extensions like the Bollywood star was getting? Or the furloughs are privileges reserved for high profile politicians, Bollywood celebrities and others who can influence the decision makers.

Imran Ali, a Supreme Court Advocate says, "No, the answer is no, it's not an easy procedure because the furloughs are granted by the respective state governments not by the courts. And then there are rule for furlough also. See, generally furlough is given in the case where the sentence is for more than five years or more, not less than five years. If the sentence is less than five years, you will never be released on furlough, until and unless there is an emergency like somebody died in the family and you have to go for cremation and all. Otherwise furlough is procedure by which you can be outside the jail for some time to be with your family or some other reason. So, Sanjay Dutt qualifies this as he got five years' sentence."

Ali adds, "But then there are rules, and rules say that you can apply furlough once in a year and they can grant you for 30 days or less than 30 days, but once in a year not repeatedly. See, it can be increased as these are rules not laws and rules are framed by the state government and state government is accountable for all your furloughs and all, and court has nothing to do with this. So, being a film star he is enjoying this."

He also said, "But another issue is if somebody ensures that he will not run away and the purpose of the punishment is to rehabilitate and it is not retributional that you have to take revenge. So, as we are into rehabilitational system but not retributional system, means we give punishment to reform them but we are not taking revenge for their crime. So somebody having deep roots, good person, good conduct, and there are no other cases against him/her then it can be granted. But, in the case of Sanjay Dutt it's a little extra leniency and kindness from the state government's side."

Advocate Rajeev Awasthi, a senior council at Delhi High Court says, "Absolutely yes. It's really blown out of context, because you know furlough is a matter of right. As per law, in an year a person can have a furlough for one month. So, now it comes to limelight when some high profile persons come into picture, otherwise it's a normal routine. Unless the state government feels that the release of this person will be extremely sensitive and he may be a threat to the society, but if the conduct of the person is fine good then he can be released or the furlough can be extended also. It's not a big thing. The law says and it is framed by Supreme Court only, that the person who is a convict has the right to be released on furlough once in an year for a month. And in any extreme situation it can be extended also. Unless he is a threat to the society and his conduct is very questionable, his background is very suspicious, the furlough is altogether different. Basically it is the furlough of the state, so I don't feel that anything very very unique is happening for Sanjay Dutt. See, I am in High Court we receive the petition for the grant of furloughs, it is normally granted on the orders of High Court also. You know those people are never seen in newspaper and no eyebrows are raised. In many cases high profile politicians with questionable conduct are being silently released by the State Government, no body asks, no body questions. There are two aspects, whether in law it can be done, yes. Whether it is badly done, discriminatingly done, arbitrarily done then it's a question to be seen whether how is the conduct of the person is. Suppose, if he is released and he again commits the crime and still he is being enlarged then these are questionable things. But if the persons background is fine, he goes peacefully and comes back, whosoever he is, he is entitled to benefit under law. Either he is a poor person or rich person. So, according to me, he is entitled under law and nothing exceptional has been done."

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