Parole is the release of a prisoner, either temporarily for a special purpose or completely before the expiry of a sentence, on the promise of good behavior; such a promise is known as a word of honour provided in the parole order. The word parole is derived from the French 'je donne ma parole 'I give my word.' i.e. the word of honour. This word was used by the prisoners of war for their release by giving promise to the captor.

Therefore, in simple words, Parole is the pre-mature conditional temporary release of a prisoner on the terms of abiding by the conditions along with the observance of certain restrictions to avail the privilege of returning back to the society and socialize with family and friends keeping in mind correctional theory and preparing to return back to his social life. It is mere suspension of the sentence for time-being keeping the quantum of sentence intact. If the paroled prisoners violate the conditions on which they are released, they may be returned back to the prison.


The idea of parole was introduced in 1840 by Alexander Maconochie, a Scottish geographer and captain in the royal navy.. He was appointed as Superintendent of British penal colonies. Instead of necessitating the prisoners to serve their sentence hopelessly until full sentence had been served, he aimed to punish the prisoners for the deed committed and to train them for the future. He developed a plan and divided it into 3 grade system. The first and second grade group was mainly for the promotions earned through good behavior, study and labor. The third grade consisted of obtaining conditional liberty outside the prison while obeying rules. On violation of such rules, the prisoner would return back to prison and would start all over again the rank of three-grade process. The ticket to the 'leave system' was reformed and this led to what many consider as world's first parole system. The prisoners who were served indeterminate sentences i.e. open ended sentences could now be released if they show evidences of reforming and rehabilitation. Through participation in the grade system which was based on the unit of marks, ensured they earned marks for their good behavior and lost marks on their bad behavior and could spend them on passage to higher classification statuses ultimately conveying freedom.

This thought was based on the ideology that a sentence should not be a mere arbitrary sentence but a source for reformation and the greed to return back to the society. Francis Lieber's thoughts on parole later reappeared in the Hague Convention, Declaration of Brussels of 1874 and the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war. In 1847, parole was first coined in a correctional context by Samvel G. Howe, a Boston penal reformer.


Parole leaves are progressive measures of correctional services. The main objectives to release the prisoners on leave as per rule 1(A) and 19 of The Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959, are as follows:

  1. To enable the prisoner to maintain continuity with his family life and deal with family matters.
  2. To save the prisoner from evil effects of continuous prison life.
  3. To enable the prisoner to maintain and develop his self-confidence.
  4. To enable the prisoner to develop constructive hope and active interest in life.


Section 432 of Cr.P.C deals with Power to Suspend or Remit Sentences. However, Supreme Court, in Sunil Fulchand Shah v. Union of India, reported in AIR 2000 SC 1023, has categorically observed that "parole does not amount to suspension of sentence''. From this it becomes clear that parole cannot be covered by Section 432 of Criminal Procedure Code.

The grant of parole is governed by rules made under Prison Act, 1894 and Prison Act, 1900. Many State governments have also formulated guidelines to bring out objectivity and facilitate decision-making to determine whether parole needs to be granted in a particular case or not. Such decisions are taken in accordance with guidelines framed from time to time. The Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959, have been enacted by exercising rule making power under section 59(5) of the Prisons Act, 1984.

Furlough is for breaking the monotony of imprisonment and is granted as a good conduct remission. Furlough is a brief release from the prison, it is conditional and is given in case of a long-term imprisonment. The period of sentence spent on furlough by the prisoners need not be undergone by the prisoner as is done in parole. Following are the different types of Parole:

a) Regular Parole

All prisoners eligible for furlough shall be eligible for regular parole for the following stated reasons:

  1. Delivery of child by wife (except high security risk prisoners)
  2. Serious illness of father/mother/spouse/ son/daughter
  3. In case of natural calamities such as flood, house collapse, earthquake, fire etc.
  4. To pursue the filing of special leave petition before supreme court against a judgment delivered by High Court convicting or upholding the conviction, as the case may be.

b) Emergency Parole or Custody parole

All convicted persons except foreigners and those serving death sentence may be eligible for emergency parole for 14 days for reasons like death of grandfather or grandmother/ father/mother/spouse/son/ daughter/ brother/sister and marriage of son/ daughter/ brother/sister, provided that no extension can be granted to emergency parole. Emergency parole is granted by Superintendent of police for the reasons of death of parental grandfather or grandmother/ father/ mother/spouse/son/ daughter/ brother/ sister and by concerned Dy. I.G. for the reason of marriage of son/daughter/brother/ sister and the authority approving emergency parole shall decide whether to grant parole under police escort or with a condition to report daily to the local police station depending upon the crime committed by the prisoner and his conduct during his stay. The expenses of police escort will be borne by the prisoner himself prior to his release on parole.

A prisoner shall not be released on regular or emergency parole for a period of one year after the expiry of his last emergency or regular parole except in case of death of his nearest relatives mentioned above.


The Hon'ble Delhi High Court, in the case between Election Commission of India vs. Mukhtar Ansari (MANU/ DE/0487/2017), held that custody parole cannot be a substitute for grant of bail and cannot be extended for long periods or for daily visits. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Asfaq. vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors reported in (2017) 15 S.C.C. 55, assumes significance because the said judgment specifically pertains to grant or rejection of parole. "Rejection of parole leave shall not be maintainable if it is denying prison justice", is the ratio decidendi given in Gujrat High Court Judgment Vasram Gagji vs. State of Gujarat and Ors. dated 29.06.1992 (MANU/GJ/0258/1992)

Recently, Dr Jalees Ansari who is also called as Dr. Bomb as he has been convicted in the Ajmeer blasts, Jaipur serial blast and Malegaon blast case and accused of plotting and executing over 50 bombs blasts across the country since early 90s and was presently serving life sentence was released on parole by Supreme Court order on 28.12.2019. He was found missing on 16.01.2020 when he was supposed to report next day. Delhi High Court had granted 18 days parole to Manu Sharma, who is undergoing life term for killing model Jessica Lall in 1999, to pursue his LLB course and get his marriage registered. Actor Sanjay Dutt was granted over five months of Parole and furlough for various reasons in his five year jail term due to involvement in 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

Allahabad High Court recently granted parole for two days to Mr. Atul Rai who won last year's Lok Sabha election from Ghosi parliamentary constituency in Mau, Uttar Pradesh for taking oath as Member of Parliament in New Delhi.


The provisions of parole are not well-known by the common man and often considered to be quite cumbersome. Awareness was possible after media highlighted about the grant of parole in high profile cases. The Rules of the Central government framed in 1955 are the skeleton and there is undoubtedly an affirmative need for updating these rules and thereby enunciating comprehensive provisions so as to provide suitable guidelines to those who have to consider applications for grant of parole. Grant of parole enables inmates an opportunity to maintain their social relations and ties to facilitate bouncing back into the society on their service of sentence. Parole had often been integral part of English and American system. Sir Alexander Paterson had said in 1930 that no human being can stand prison life for more than 10 years. If the goal of imprisonment is reformation, on which he further said that there should not be a second opinion, there should be no hesitation on the part of the legislature to effect it. Parole is claimed to be a success in rehabilitation and checking the attitude of the convict during the parole. It acts like an executive action after the door has been shut on the convict. However, not all people are equal and there are exceptional cases where there has been misuse of the parole granted and convicts have fled away thereby, abusing the privilege granted. Having said that, it should also not take away an opportunity from the convicts who can emerge as a successful person with the help of parole as measure of penal reform. It is rightly said that criminality is the expression of a `symptom' of certain disorder in the offenders and they can be easily diagnosed and correct treatment administered to them. Knowing the fact that parole is not a right but a privilege upon the good behavior observed, allowing them to reinstate in the social environment and giving a fair opportunity to rehabilitate is what can bring the change in them and in the society instead of merely overcrowding the prisons.

Originally published by Decoding The Privilege.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.