The actor who has been convicted in the 1993 bomb blasts case, has been granted parole for 118 days.

The Bombay High Court pulled up the Maharashtra government on Tuesday, questioning constant extensions to parole granted to actor Sanjay Dutt, who has been convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. "Why this casual approach for ordinary citizens? You normally would not have shown such diligence in the case of a normal citizen," the division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and V L Achaliya observed.

Mr. Dutt was convicted in July 2007 under the Arms Act. Of the 307 days of imprisonment, he has been granted parole for 118 days. He was granted 30 days of furlough in October and then three months of parole. The petitioner, a lawyer from Pune filed a Public Interest Litigation alleging rampant misuse of parole provisions in favour of the actor. He said that while 600 applications were pending before the State government, Sanjay Dutt's plea was processed in a matter of days.

The government said the actor was granted parole because his wife was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis. However, the court said there were many cases where people suffered from severe ailments but could not get parole because the police did not submit the report on time. "We don't say that because somebody is influential, his rights should be curtailed. Pain and suffering is common to all. But you have to exercise your discretion properly. It is high time you address this issue," the court observed. "What is the purpose of punishment if the accused is given so much parole?," the court said.

The court also objected to the Rs. 5,000 surety sought from the actor for granting furlough. It said that it had intervened several times in the past, directing the State government to reduce the surety for various poor prisoners. "And here you relieve him for Rs. 5,000?" the Bench asked.

Need for systemic reforms

The judges remarked that there was need for radical systemic reforms to address the pendency of parole and furlough applications. It asked the government to set up a committee of officials from the Home and Law and Judiciary departments for suggesting amendments to the law. The State government will file its reply four weeks from now.

Sanjay Dutt's lawyer intevenes

Mr.Dutt intervened through his lawyer during the hearing of the PIL, and said he wasn't the only one to have been granted parole. "I accessed information through Right to Information query, and found out that the Pune Divisional Commissioner had liberally granted parole to many prisoners. I am not the only one to have received it. According to the data, in 2011, he granted parole to 718 convicts, and rejected only three applications," advocate Hitesh Jain, appearing for Mr. Dutt, told the court. The petitioner pointed out that no one else had been granted parole for such a long duration till now.

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