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A Bench of Justices Dr S Murlidhar and Avneesh Jhingan have referred the question to a Three-Judge Bench in view of conflicting decisions of the Court on the interpretation of the Haryana Good Conduct Rules.
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has decided to refer the question of whether prisoners found using or possessing a phone/SIM in prison can be released under the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 1988 on parole or furlough.
Finding a divergence of opinion on the question by various Division Benches of the Court, Justices Dr S Murlidhar and Avneesh Jhingan have decided to refer the matter to a larger bench.
While one view holds that prisoners using phones when in prison would absolutely disentitle them from being released on parole or furlough, the second view states that unless such a prisoner is convicted for introducing prohibited articles into the prison under Section 42, they may be released on parole/furlough.
Division Benches of the High Court in the cases of Vakil Raj v. State of Haryana and Mubarik v. State of Haryana adopted the first view.
However, Division Benches in the cases of Sunil @ Shilu v. State of Haryana, Sonu @ Pradeep v. State of Haryana and Gurdeep Singh v. State of Haryana took the second view.
Noting that a number of Single Benches had applied either of the views, the Bench opined that there was a need for a reference to a larger bench.
Since the law requires that issues upon which there are conflicting holdings should be referred to a larger bench, the Judges deemed it appropriate to place the question before the Chief Justice.
Therefore, the question framed was whether a person found to have used or possessed a mobile phone while in prison could be deemed a 'hardcore prisoner' in terms of the Haryana Good Conduct Rules, and further, whether a conviction was necessary to deny such a prisoner temporary release.
The case arose out after a prisoner accused of using a phone in prison applied for furlough, to "meet his aged parents and wife and also for restoring social ties."
His application was rejected as he was still being prosecuted under Section 42 of the Prisons Act. The prisoner contended that he was entitled to release since he has not yet been convicted.
The question has been placed before the Chief Justice of the High Court who will constitute an appropriate Bench to decide upon this question.
Read the Order: