Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a landmark ruling, the Division Bench of Dinesh Maheshwari* and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., reversed Delhi High Court’s judgment holding that the Presidential order banning benefit of parole and remission to the appellant will also disentitle him of benefit of furlough.

By a detailed judgment the Bench clarified differences between remission, parole and furlough. Opening that the High Court had misunderstood furlough for remission, the Bench expressed,

“We need not elaborate to say that depriving of even the concession of furlough and thereby taking away an incentive/motivation for good conduct would not only be counter-productive but would be an antithesis to the reformative approach otherwise running through the scheme of Rules of 2018.”

Factual Background

The appellant – a life convict whose death sentence was commuted by the President of India vide order dated 15-11-2012 – had preferred the instant appeal on being aggrieved by the Delhi High Court’s order, dismissing his writ petition and declining his prayer to grant furlough. The High Court had held that the appellant was not entitled to furlough owing to the conditions of the order issued by the President of India in mercy petition that the appellant’s death sentence be converted to the one of imprisonment for life with additional direction that he would remain in prison ‘for the whole of the remainder of his natural life without parole and there shall be no remission of the term of imprisonment’.

The High Court opined that that the appellant was not entitled to seek furlough because he was not entitled to remission of any kind. However, the contention of the appellant was that the aforesaid terms of the order dated 15-11-2012 were of no debarment, so far as his entitlement to furlough under the Delhi Prison Rules, 20181 was concerned.

Decision of Death Sentence

The appellant was sentenced to death for the offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 on accusation that he caused the death of his step-mother, step-brother and step-sister by multiple knife-blows. Finding it to be a case falling in ‘rarest of the rare category’, the High Court as well as the Supreme Court had confirmed the sentence of death awarded to him.

Mercy Petition

When the curative petition filed by the appellant was dismissed, the appellant approached the President in a mercy petition to grant pardon and to suspend, remit or commute his sentence. By the order dated 15-11-2012, the President modified the sentence of death awarded to the one of imprisonment for life with the requirements that he would remain in prison for the whole of remainder of his natural life without parole and there shall be no remission of the term of imprisonment.

Law on Furlough

Furlough is defined in Section 2(h) of the Delhi Prison Act, 2000 as: –

“Furlough means leave as a reward granted to a convicted prisoner who has been sentenced to RI for 5 years or more and has undergone 3 years thereof”

The objectives of parole and furlough are set forth in Rules 1197 to 1200 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018; Rule 1199 states that furlough means release of a prisoner for a short period of time after a gap of certain qualified numbers of years of incarceration by way of motivation for maintaining good conduct and to remain disciplined in the prison. This is purely an incentive for good conduct in the prison. Therefore, the period spent by the prisoner outside the prison on furlough shall be counted towards his sentence.

Rule 1223 states following requirements to be eligible for furlough:

  1. Good conduct in the prison and should have earned rewards in last 3 Annual good conduct report and continues to maintain good conduct.
  2. The prisoner should not be a habitual offender.
  3. The prisoner should be a citizen of India.

The ideology behind granting furlough is that convicts too must breathe fresh air for at least some time provided they maintain good conduct consistently during incarceration and show a tendency to reform themselves and become good citizens.

High Court Misunderstood Furlough for Remission

Rejecting the reasoning of the High Court that once it had been provided by the President that the appellant would remain in prison for whole of the reminder of his natural life without parole and without remission, all his other rights, particularly those emanating from good jail conduct, as available in the Rules, 2018 would stand foreclosed, the Bench stated that in the Rules, 2018, the eligibility requirement to obtain furlough is of ‘3 Annual good conduct reports’ and not ‘3 Annual good conduct remissions’.

The Bench opined that in the scheme of the Rules, 2018 it cannot be said that earning rewards is equivalent to earning remissions and even if he (the appellant) would spend some time on furlough, that will not come to his aid so as to seek remission because of the fact that he has to remain in prison for whole of the reminder of his natural life.

Difference between Parole, Remission and Furlough

Further, the Bench noted that the presidential order dated 15-11-2012 bars parole as also remission but significantly, there is no mention of the treatment of entitlement towards furlough. While differentiating between remission, parole and furlough, the Bench observed that parole is akin to temporary suspension of execution of sentence. There cannot be any temporary suspension of execution of sentence qua the appellant inasmuch as the sentence awarded to him has to run in perpetuity and during the whole of his natural life. Moreover, for parole, conduct is not a decisive factor.

However, in contradistinction to parole, in furlough, the prisoner is deemed to be serving the sentence inasmuch as the period of furlough is not reduced from actual serving period. And, the conduct is predominantly decisive of entitlement towards furlough. Thus, even if the appellant would be on furlough, he would be deemed to be serving the sentence for all time to come. The Bench opined that,

“…the High Court proceeded on the assumption that the matter was being considered for grant of remission and ‘consequently’ for grant of furlough under the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018. The Court was of the view that since the convict in question would not get remission, he would not be entitled to furlough. The Court assumed that remission was a prerequisite for furlough.”

Hence, the Bench held that the entitlement of furlough cannot be decided in the case of the present nature with reference to the question as to whether any remission would be available or not.

Noticing that the whole of the scheme of granting furlough is based on reformation and is an incentive for maintaining good conduct, the Bench held that even if the appellant is to remain in prison for the whole of remainder of his life, the expectations from him of good conduct in jail would always remain; and the lawful consequences of good conduct, including that of furlough, cannot be denied.


In the above backdrop, the Bench concluded that since the appellant had 3 Annual good conduct reports in his favour, he could not be denied furlough with reference to the order dated 15-11-2012, as the said order could not be construed to take away the rights flowing from his maintaining good conduct; neither the requirements of his maintaining good conduct are whittled down nor the reformative approach and incentive for good conduct cease to exist in his relation.

Therefore, the Bench disapproved blanket denial of furlough to the appellant in the orders impugned, and directed the authorities concerned to decide the case of the appellant for grant of furlough in accordance with law. The impugned judgment and orders were set aside; and the case of the appellant for grant of furlough was restored for reconsideration of the Director General of Prisons, to be decided preferably within two months.

[Atbir v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2022 SCC OnLine SC 527, decided on 29-04-2022]

*Judgment by: Dinesh Maheshwari

Appearance by:

For the Appellant: Advocate Neha Kapoor

For the State: Additional Solicitor General S. V. Raju

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has formulated “broad, general” principles governing rules for granting parole and furlough, holding that parole and furlough are distinct in nature and that although furlough can be claimed without a reason, the prisoner does not have an absolute legal right to claim furlough.

Interpreting the Bombay Furlough and Parole Rules, made pursuant to Section 59 of the Prisons Act 1894, the Court noticed that the same do not confer a legal right on a prisoner to be released on furlough.

“The grant of furlough is regulated by Rule 3 and Rule 4. While Rule 3 provides the eligibility criteria for grant of furlough for prisoners serving different lengths of imprisonment, Rule 4 imposes limitations. The use of the expression “may be released” in Rule 3 indicates the absence of an absolute right. This is further emphasised in Rule 17 which states that said Rules do not confer a legal right on a prisoner to claim release on furlough. Thus, the grant of release on furlough is a discretionary remedy circumscribed by Rules 3 and 4 extracted above.”

The principles laid down by the Court are:

  • Furlough and parole envisage a short-term temporary release from custody;
  • While parole is granted for the prisoner to meet a specific exigency, furlough may be granted after a stipulated number of years have been served without any reason;
  • The grant of furlough is to break the monotony of imprisonment and to enable the convict to maintain continuity with family life and integration with society;
  • Although furlough can be claimed without a reason, the prisoner does not have an absolute legal right to claim furlough;
  • The grant of furlough must be balanced against the public interest and can be refused to certain categories of prisoners.

Important Rulings on the difference between Furlough and Parole

State of Maharashtra v. Suresh Pandurang Darvakar, (2006) 4 SCC 776

While both parole and furlough are temporary releases from confinement, parole is granted only for a specific purpose. A prisoner is entitled to apply for furlough once he has served the minimum years of sentence as stipulated in Rule 3.

The “furlough” and “parole” have two different purposes. It is not necessary to state the reasons while releasing the prisoner on furlough, but in case of parole reasons are to be indicated in terms of Rule 19. But release on furlough cannot be said to be an absolute right of the prisoner as culled out from Rule 17. It is subject to the conditions mentioned in Rules 4(4) and 6. Furlough is allowed periodically under Rule 3 irrespective of any particular reason merely with a view to enable the prisoner to have family association, family and social ties and to avoid ill-effect of continuous prison life. Period of furlough is treated as a period spent in the prison. But Rule 20 shows that period spent on parole is not to be counted as remission of sentence. Since the furlough is granted for no particular reason, it can be denied in the interest of society; whereas parole is to be granted only on sufficient cause being shown.

State of Haryana v. Mohinder Singh, (2000) 3 SCC 394

“… when a prisoner is on parole his period of release does not count towards the total period of sentence while when he is on furlough he is eligible to have the period of release counted towards the total period of his sentence undergone by him.”

Asfaq v. State of Rajasthan, (2017) 15 SCC 55

A parole can be defined as conditional release of prisoners i.e. an early release of a prisoner, conditional on good behaviour and regular reporting to the authorities for a set period of time. It can also be defined as a form of conditional pardon by which the convict is released before the expiration of his term. Thus, the parole is granted for good behaviour on the condition that parolee regularly reports to a supervising officer for a specified period. Such a release of the prisoner on parole can also be temporarily on some basic grounds. In that eventuality, it is to be treated as mere suspension of the sentence for time being, keeping the quantum of sentence intact. Release on parole is designed to afford some relief to the prisoners in certain specified exigencies.

Furlough, on the other hand, is a brief release from the prison. It is conditional and is given in case of long-term imprisonment. The period of sentence spent on furlough by the prisoners need not be undergone by him as is done in the case of parole. Furlough is granted as a good conduct remission.

Key differences highlighted in the judgment are:

  • Both parole and furlough are conditional release.
  • Parole can be granted in case of short-term imprisonment whereas in furlough it is granted in case of long-term imprisonment. Duration of parole extends to one month whereas in the case of furlough it extends to fourteen days maximum.
  • Parole is granted by Divisional Commissioner and furlough is granted by the Deputy Inspector General of Prisons.
  • For parole, specific reason is required, whereas furlough is meant for breaking the monotony of imprisonment.
  • The term of imprisonment is not included in the computation of the term of parole, whereas it is vice versa in furlough.
  • Parole can be granted number of times whereas there is limitation in the case of furlough.
  • Since furlough is not granted for any particular reason, it can be denied in the interest of the society.

[State of Gujarat v. Narayana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 949, decided on 20.10.2021]



For State of Gujarat: Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General

For Respondent: Advocate Sanjiv Punalekar

*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Know Thy Judge| Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Punjab and Haryana High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajiv Narain Raina, J. allowed the petition to grant furlough to the petitioner and quashed the impugned order passed by the District Magistrate disallowing the same. 

The instant petition was made with the prayer that the petitioner be granted the benefit of furlough for a period of two weeks to enable him to meet his family members. The petitioner was convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

The application of the petitioner for furlough was rejected on the grounds that the petitioner had recently availed parole period from 12.06.2019 to 28.06.2019. The District Magistrate, Karnal refused to recommend furlough to the petitioner to meet his family. The Divisional Commissioner, Karnal Division, Karnal by applying the provisions of Section 6 (1) of the amended Act of 2012 of the Haryana Temporary Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 1988 supported the stance of the District Magistrate.

The Court observed that there was no report in the impugned order stating that the release of the petitioner on furlough would involve a breach of the security of the State or he would pose a danger to society or create law and order problems. The court also noted that the petitioner had already undergone about 10 years and 5 months as under trial and after his conviction. Moreover, the petitioner had already availed the benefit of parole in the month of June, 2019 and he surrendered in time after the parole period was over.

After considering the aforementioned facts and taking into account the aforesaid relevant consideration, the court deemed it appropriate to grant the benefit of furlough to the petitioner for a period of two weeks.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was allowed with the direction that the District Magistrate concerned, would impose such conditions as may be required to secure the presence of the petitioner in jail after the period of furlough, is over and done with and the temporary release would not be misused. [Deepak Sharma v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 2089, decided on 19-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a petition for grant of furlough holding that convicts under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 are not entitled to the same.

The petitioner was convicted for an offence punishable under the NDPS Act and was undergoing a sentence of imprisonment. He applied before the Competent Authority for grant of furlough. However, his application was rejected. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the present petition seeking a grant of furlough.

The High Court noted that according to Rule 1224 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 which came into force w.e.f 1-1-2019, persons convicted for sedition, terrorist activities and under NDPS Act will not be entitled to furlough. While holding that the petitioner was not entitled to the relief sought for, the Court observed that, “furlough is a kind of remission granted as a reward for good conduct, unlike parole which can be granted in exigencies of a situation as well.” Consequently, the petition was dismissed. [Deepender Kumar v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6773, decided on 23-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of V.K. Tahilramani, Acting CJ and M.S. Sonak, J. dismissed a petition challenging the rejection of petitioner’s application for grant of furlough.

The petitioner was convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 302, 341 and 397 IPC. He preferred an application for furlough, which was rejected. The petitioner preferred an appeal thereagainst, which too was dismissed. Aggrieved thus, the petitioner filed the instant criminal writ petition. The application of the petitioner to be released on furlough came to be rejected in view of Rule 4(2) of the Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959. The said rule provides that the prisoners convicted under Sections 392 to 402 IPC (both inclusive) shall not be eligible for grant of furlough.

The High Court, referring to earlier decisions, observed that Rule 4(2) is valid and intra vires and not vulnerable to challenge to the charge of being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. In offences falling under the said sections, it would be hazardous to release convicts on furlough because when one abandons honest labour for the career of theft or intimidation coupled with violence, it tends to become a way of life and the temptation is too great to resist when the prisoner is at large. The offences of dacoity and robbery fall within a class by themselves. Thus, the classification is based on the danger inherent in releasing such prisoners and has a nexus with the object sought to be achieved. In view of the same, the High Court was not inclined to interfere in the matter. The petition was, accordingly, dismissed. [Sunil Gaurishankar Kharwar v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2450, dated 07-08-2018]