India: A Murder Convict's Parole Stirs Up Controversy

On November 16, 2011, the Delhi High Court granted a 5-day parole to Mr. Manu Sharma – currently serving life imprisonment for the murder of Jessica Lal – so that he could attend the wedding of his younger brother. According to the Indian Parole Laws, this is technically a valid ground for seeking parole. However, the Court's decision to grant parole in this case, has led to public outrage, reflected by the heated discussions online, among netizens.

People were quick to recall that Sharma, son of a wealthy and influential former Minister, had already violated parole once before. In 2009, Sharma had been granted a 30-day parole, apparently to visit his ailing mother and perform the last rites of his grandmother. Soon however, the basis of his parole was proved to be unfounded as his grandmother had passed away in 2008 and his ‘ailing’ mother was seen at a media briefing, promoting a ladies’ cricket tournament in Chandigarh. Sharma himself was caught on camera, partying away in a discotheque in Delhi.

Embarrassed over the revelation and ensuing media glare, the government had to order an inquiry and soon Sharma was seen returning to jail, before the expiry of his parole term.

This time, when Sharma's parole application came up for hearing, the judge apparently pointed out this case of earlier violation. However, Manu Sharma's legal counsel had argued that according to the guidelines for granting parole, only the last one year's conduct should be taken into consideration. The Delhi Police too, apparently withdrew their initial objection to the parole and submitted before the Court that they had “no objections” to the parole if Sharma provided an undertaking that he would not leave Ambala and Karnal – the venues of his brother's wedding.

Finally, Manu Sharma was granted parole under the conditions that a) he will not leave Ambala and Karnal b) he will not visit nightclubs and/or discotheques and c) he will furnish a personal bond of Rs. 50,000.

Blogger Joseph Thomas wrote on his blog:

I’m appalled by the parole conditions of Manu Sharma, the killer of Jessica Lal. The parole conditions say that Sharma is not allowed to go to any night clubs or discotheques. Why only night clubs and discotheques? Is it because the murder of Jessica Lal had happened in a night club and going to a similar place would make him repeat the crime (earlier he had been to a night club during the parole)? Or in other words, is it to be understood that it is the place – not the man, his criminal mindset and his influential family – that lead to commit the murder?

Twitter has been abuzz with reactions – so much so, that #ManuSharma was soon a trending topic. The reactions ranged from questioning the decision to sarcasm to outright anger.

@amreekandesi: Manu Sharma gets parole to attend brother's wedding. For him life is all about free jail food between family functions.

@PritishNandy: Manu Sharma on parole! Next, we will have Ajmal Kasab on parole, dancing at his brother's wedding in Faridkot.

@subhra2jyoti: Manu Sharma being given 5 days parole to attend some function. what bullshit ?? Has our judiciary system completely gone insane..

@sanyakapil: Its funny that #ManuSharma is being given a parole, more like few days off of jail time to attend his bro's wedding. Privileged criminal

@kunalkohli: Can there be a more ridiculous headline than ‘Manu Sharma get parole, but barred from clubbing'!

@ays7: How #ManuSharma got a parole despite severe parole violation last time is beyond my comprehension. It just defies all logic.

@lindsaypereira: The nicest thing about being arrested in India is it doesn't impinge on one's right to party. #ManuSharma

@Alfred_Prufrock: The quality of mercy is not strained. It's f-ing filtered through wads of money. #ManuSharma

@shammybaweja: Parole guidelines are clear- you get again only if you dont violate it the 1st time. The spoilt Manu Sharma has d right political godfathers

@namitabhandare: @shammybaweja – I'm all for a liberalised prison system, but same rules for all. Not spoilt brats like #ManuSharma abusing privilege.

@madmanweb: I am so glad we have a compassionate legal system in this country that allows murderers to take days off for family weddings. #ManuSharma

@manisharana: All of #manusharma's relatives are planning to get married one after the other every month. Those married, should divorce and then remarry!

@amanpaggarwal: News on the street – #ManuSharma seeking marriage invitations !!! I believe the going rate is Rs 1lakh per invite.

@RangitaNandy: So #ManuSharma is out on parole, with a court order to stay away from nightclubs. Incredible, idiotic India.

Some Tweeters however, are asking what the noise is all about, since a convict has the right to apply for and be granted parole under Indian Laws. There were some questions too – seeking clarification regarding the same.

@bhairavigoswami: I think a person on parole is legally allowed to go out fr family reasons. any lawyers here who cn clarify #ManuSharma

@SUYASH30: why all dis fuss over parole of manu sharma ?? a criminal is a criminal nd he has a right fr parole , Why 2 differentiate betn criminals ??

However, others were quick to point out that other convicts have not been so lucky with their parole applications.

@namitabhandare: Does anyone have the stats of how many convicted murderers have got parole to attend weddings? #ManuSharma

@shammybaweja: @namitabhandare I can tell you – of 372 who applied for parole, as many as 300 are still waiting. Manu got his in flat 20 days in 2009

Questions have been raised on the role of the Delhi police too, as to why they did not oppose the parole.

@gauravcsawant: #ManuSharma told not to go to night clubs/pubs during 5 day parole. Why did DelhiPolice suddenly not oppose parole?

Other Twitter users however, feel that there is more to the story and that the blame should not be heaped at the Police Department's door:

@katie_abraham: Why blame the Police always? #DelhiPolice opposed #ManuSharma's Parole then WHY?

It appears that in normal cases, the governement takes at least three to six months to decide on a parole application. However, in Sharma's case the application was cleared within 20 days, causing eyebrows to be raised, even within the judiciary.

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