New Delhi: A convict facing life sentence for killing his wife over dowry demand was granted furlough for three weeks in July 2011. But, more than a decade later, the man is yet to surrender before Tihar jail where he was lodged.
This fact about the missing convict — Mukesh Kumar — was revealed by Delhi Police and Tihar jail authorities in their affidavits filed recently in the Supreme Court that is hearing his appeal against his conviction.
Kumar was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2003, after a trial court found him guilty. His conviction was upheld in 2007 by the Delhi High Court, which Kumar has challenged before the top court.
Between 11 July 2011, when Kumar was given furlough, till 26 July 2021, when the Delhi Police and Tihar filed their affidavits disclosing his disappearance, Kumar’s appeal got listed in the top court eight times.
On five dates — 17 October 2012, 27 November 2012, 7 January 2013, 29 January 2013 and 3 September 2014 — the matter got adjourned because Kumar’s lawyer had not provided a spare copy of the petition.
Almost seven years later, when the matter got listed on 9 March 2021 for a final hearing it got adjourned to allow Kumar’s lawyer to file evidence of witnesses and other relevant documents.
Thereafter, the case got listed on 13 July 2021 before a bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana. On this day the court heard “at length” arguments made by Kumar’s lawyer as well as Delhi Police that was represented by a senior advocate.
It was on this date that the court for the first time asked how much period Kumar had spent in the jail. In the absence of any response from both the counsel, the bench adjourned the matter by a week, while seeking information on the state’s policy on premature release of convicts.
Since the requisite details were not provided to the court on the next date of hearing, 22 July, the bench reiterated its order and adjourned the matter to 28 July. Apart from the earlier two directions, the court also sought to know if there is a portal that records the incarceration period of inmates.
It was only in response to the two orders that Tihar and Delhi Police filed their affidavits on 26 July 2021, disclosing Kumar’s disappearing act. Both stated Kumar was granted furlough in July 2011 by the jail superintendent with a condition to surrender within three weeks.
Furlough is given in cases of long-term imprisonment and is granted periodically irrespective of any reason. It is to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties, and to counter the ill-effects of prolonged time spent in jail.
Kumar’s advocate, Shiv Kumar Sharma, who was assigned to argue Kumar’s appeal by the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority, an agency that aids undertrials who cannot afford a lawyer on their own, was unaware of this development. Even the counsel for Delhi Police was not informed till the hearing on 28 July.
Delhi Police affidavit vs Tihar affidavit
On behalf of the Delhi Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police of outer-north district, Rajiv Ranjan Singh, filed the affidavit. Furnishing details of the allegations against Kumar, he said Delhi Police made all efforts to trace Kumar but have not been able to do so. The police visited his native place in Aroha district of Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh and during inquiries got to know that Kumar never visited his village since 2011. Investigations made at his place of residence in Narela revealed he never returned to the place after his wife’s murder in 1999.
The affidavit further said a message has been “flashed across India to trace” Kumar, and a request for declaring suitable reward for providing information about him has been sent to the higher authorities as well.
Meanwhile, Tihar claimed in its affidavit that it had informed the concerned authorities in August and September 2011. A reminder was sent in March and May 2016 as well. Further, a Tihar jail officer also visited the police station in Gautam Buddha Nagar for taking necessary steps to re-arrest the applicant.
Furthermore, Kumar, the affidavit mentioned, got bail from the Supreme Court on 3 September 2012 following which Tihar had sent letters to the top court registry, the Delhi High Court registry as well the trial court that convicted the man in the case, apprising them about him jumping furlough. The affidavit has annexed a copy of this communication.
During the hearing on 28 July, the top court expressed concern at convicts languishing in jail even after serving long sentences, despite being entitled under Prison rules for remission of sentences by the states.
However, with regard to Kumar’s appeal, it dismissed the same, after noting that he had jumped the furlough. The official order on this is yet to be released formally.
But the court has still kept the matter on board with regard to developing a mechanism to educate inmates about their rights to get remission.