From Justice Definitions Project

What is furlough?

In general terms, the word ‘furlough’ refers to the granting of a leave of absence of some sort. We will now examine the meaning of furlough in the context of leave granted to prisoners.

How does furlough differ from parole?

While both parole and furlough are varieties of relief that may be granted to prisoners, they differ on certain grounds.

The case of State of Maharashtra v. Suresh Pandurang Darvakar[1] held that while reasons generally have to be stated for the granting of parole (linked to the classification of various types of parole as stipulated in the Section on parole), there is no such requirement of stating of reasons in the case of leave granted under the concept of furlough. Further, the Court observed that this procedural distinction exists due to a purposive distinction between furlough and parole, in that while there may be several stipulated reasons for granting parole, furlough is generally granted periodically in order for the prisoner in question to keep up social and familial ties and associations. Thus, in keeping with the difference in objectives between the two remedial measures, the Court held that furlough cannot be considered to be an absolute right from the perspective of the prisoner.

State-Wise Provisions Pertaining to Furlough

On the Basis of Duration

In similar fashion to the provisions that pertain to parole, state-wise furlough provisions contain several differences in terms of maximum duration, procedure for application, criteria, etc.

For example, the Maharashtra rules allow for furlough for a period of 21 or 28 days[2], with such a period being dependent on the sentence of the concerned prisoner. A 2022 revision to the Haryana rules allow for furlough for between three and four weeks in a calendar year. In Andhra Pradesh, the same duration is applied in respect of both furlough and parole (2 weeks, with the possibility of extension under certain special circumstances as determined by the Government). In Odisha, while furlough is permissible for up to 4 weeks, the upper limit for parole is 30 days[3]. Finally, in Punjab, The stipulated furlough period is, during the first year of a prisoner’s sentence, three weeks, and in the successive years, two weeks[4].

On the Basis of Nature of the Offence

A recent amendment to the Prisons (Bombay Parole and Furlough) Rules, 1959  has brought about certain changes into the furlough rules of Maharashtra, attracting a degree of criticism. Some of the changes brought about are the deprivation of individuals convicted of certain offenses, which include for example terrorism, dacoity, and mutiny against the state, of the right to apply for furlough. Even though it has been previously stated that furlough is not considered to be an absolute right, Courts have not reached a consensus as to whether or not the nature of the offense can allow for the complete deprivation of the right to apply for furlough. The amendment violates a key precedent[5] which answers this question in the negative. In Haryana as well, there is a provision stating that any “hardcore convicted prisoner” may not be released on furlough[6].  Furthermore, the amendment has also effectively prevented those individuals who, while their appeals are pending against conviction, have been denied bail, from being eligible for furlough - despite a precedent[7] stating that this is not an appropriate grounds for denying furlough.

On the Basis of Terminology

In some cases, there may be minor variations in respect of the specific terms used to denote ‘furlough’. Karnataka, for example, defines the term ‘furlough system’ in the Karnataka Prisons Act, 1963. The term used in the Odisha Prison Manual of 2020 is ‘furlough leave’[8].

Other Specificities

The Andhra Pradesh rules also contain a provision that states that those prisoners who are in open prisons will be granted furlough every year. This provision is also present in the Telangana furlough rules[9]. The relevant rules provide for a furlough of 14 days in the case of prisoners serving sentences upwards of five years, after two of the years have been completed, and after one year is completed in the case of prisoners serving sentences shorter than five years.

Research Engaging with Furlough

  1. Case law compilation by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative -
  2. Oxford University Research Archive report on parole and furlough -


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