The law allows every convicted criminal in India to spend a few days away from jail occasionally, on parole or furlough, after seeking prior permission. But what about a rapist and murderer who used his recent parole periods to rape his wife and assault a journalist? The Gujarat jail authorities may have some questions to answer on that front, after they granted furlough to a 2002 communal riots convict with a history of violence during his breaks from jail-time.
In 2012, a special court in Gujarat convicted Suresh “Richard” Jadeja for committing a number of murders and rapes during the Naroda Patiya massacre in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, when a mob stormed into a housing society and killed about 100 Muslims. He was awarded a 31-year jail sentence.
In July 2015, when Jadeja was out on two weeks parole granted by the Gujarat High Court, he allegedly raped and brutalised his wife. She filed sexual abuse and domestic violence cases against him and also filed for divorce. The next time Jadeja applied for parole that year, his application was rejected.
But in January 2016, Jadeja was given parole again, for 30 days this time, after convincing the court that he needed to search for his missing daughter. During this period, he allegedly assaulted Revati Laul, an independent journalist who had sought to meet him for an interview. Jadeja is said to have dragged, punched and kicked Laul repeatedly before he was pulled away from her. When she reported the attack and the convict was sent back to prison, Laul claims the Gujarat police announced that Jadeja would not be let out again.
But this week, somehow, Jadeja is out of jail yet again. In a serious breach of protocol, the local police in his Ahmedabad neighbourhood claims to have no documentation of the furlough that has been granted to him.
On the loose
A parole is a temporary release that courts or jail authorities may grant to prisoners in cases of emergency. It can be granted for a maximum of 90 days a year, but not for longer than 30 days at a time. A furlough, on the other hand, is considered every prisoner’s right and is typically granted by senior police officials in charge of prisons for at least 14 days a year. In both cases, the official order granting the parole or furlough must be sent to the local police station in the convict’s area of residence, so that his movements can be traced.
But the local police in Sardarnagar, where Jadeja’s home is, had no information about his current furlough.
On Monday night, Jadeja made a phone call to his brother-in-law. “He spoke in a threatening manner and said he wanted to meet his wife and her mother,” Shabana Mansuri, the lawyer representing Jadeja’s wife in the couple’s domestic violence and divorce cases, told Scroll.in
Alarmed that her husband was out of prison again, Jadeja’s wife alerted Laul, who said she called up various police officials, only to find that Sardarnagar police station was unaware of the criminal’s brief return. Anxious about her own safety as well as his wife’s, Laul pleaded with the local police to send a constable to Jadeja’s house. The constable was eventually able to confirm to Laul, on Tuesday, that the criminal was indeed out of prison on furlough. But the police he did not know when he had been released and how much of his furlough period had lapsed (and more importantly, how much remained, given that he could pose a security threat to Laul and his ex-wife).
‘We have no orders’
Despite several attempts, Scroll.in was unable to reach officials at Sabarmati Jail where Jadeja is lodged who had allowed him to temporarily leave prison.
When Scroll.in called up the Sardarnagar police station, an official who did not wish to be identified, admitted that they had not heard of Jadeja’s furlough till “the media” told them about it.
“Normally we receive orders about paroles and furloughs of convicts from the jail or the court, and the convict is supposed to report to us once a week during the break,” said the police official. “But we have not received any orders about Suresh [Jadeja] from anyone. We had no idea he was out till the media called.”
When asked about how the police plans to ensure the safety of Jadeja’s wife and Laul, the official merely claimed that he did not have orders to keep a check on the criminal during his furlough.
Laul and Jadeja’s wife, meanwhile, are moving to undisclosed locations for safety. “We are now planning to apply to the sessions court for a cancellation of his furlough,” said lawyer Mansuri.
For Laul, the problem is not that a 2002 riots convict is out of jail – several other riots convicts have been granted parole on different occasions. “But when this man was out on parole earlier, the first thing he did was to violate the conditions of his release by attacking women,” said Laul, who wants to know how and why Jadeja’s furlough was not officially documented at the local police station. “For me, the question is, who does the police protect – the ordinary people or those who have committed a crime?”