From Justice Definitions Project

What is Parole?

Parole is a crucial component of justice systems around the world. The term is generally understood as meaning the conditional release of a prisoner before the completion of their sentence[1]. Parole is considered a key facet of a humane and rehabilitative justice system, and many believe it to be more beneficial than purely punitive methods[2].

As a part of the reformative process, parole is aimed at allowing for a prisoner’s eventual harmonization with broader society, providing them with an opportunity to maintain social ties and self-develop in social relations. These rehabilitative aims of parole as a concept have been echoed in several precedents, such as Inder Singh v. State[3], which highlighted the importance of prisoners maintaining family ties and not having built-up internal tensions. These rehabilitative aims of parole are mirrored in jurisprudence pertaining to the concept, as well as in various state policies to do with parole.

Official Definition of Parole

Various scholars have defined ‘parole’ in different ways. Parole is defined as being the release of an offender from a penal or reformative institution who remains to be under the control of the correctional authorities, by JL Gillin. Donald Taft’s definition of parole characterizes it as a method of release that retains a degree of control over the prisoners, but still permits them to have more normal social relationships within the community and provides aid of a constructive nature when the prisoners most need such aid. Taft goes on to define parole as a release from prison after some portion of the sentence has been served, with the prisoner remaining under state conditions and in custody until discharged, and upon violation of any of the conditions surrounding parole, will be liable to return to the penal institution. Sutherland’s definition of parole considers it to be an inmate’s liberation from a correctional institution such as a prison on the condition of reinstatement of the original penalty of the prisoner if the conditions association with such liberation are violated[4].

In the western context, parole largely refers to the idea of suspended sentence with or without conditions and entails supervision by a parole officer. During the period when a parolee is out on parole, they need to ensure that they do not violate the conditions of parole e.g. reoffending, going near the residence of the victim, getting drunk or engaging in substance abuse, etc. If the parolee violates the parole conditions, they would have to return to prison custody, based on the report submitted by the parole officer to the prison authorities.

However, in India, parole is like a short leave granted to a prisoner for a specific purpose like death, marriage, or a family situation that requires the prisoner to be with their family.

According to the Model Prison Manual, 2016, parole refers to the temporary release of a prisoner with the purpose of maintaining their social relations with their family and with their community with the purpose of fulfilling social and familial responsibilities and obligations[5].

Case laws related to Parole

Parole is generally an administrative action. In The Home Secretary (Prison) vs H. Nilofer Nisha, 2020[6], the court clearly said, “It is not for the writ court to decide whether a prisoner is entitled to parole or remission and these matters lie squarely in the domain of the Government.” It clarified that parole is not a right of the prisoner but a privilege which can be granted only by the discretion of the government. However, in certain special circumstances, the court has the power to grant parole in the nature of a writ.

For instance, in Kundan Singh vs. State, 2023[7] the Delhi High Court granted parole to for medically-assisted procreation, considering the convict's advanced age and that of his wife, stems from a sincere intention to safeguard and continue their family lineage. It underscores the principle that even individuals serving sentences retain their basic rights and deserve fair treatment under the law.

Similarly, in Harish Yadav vs State Of Nct Of Delhi, 2024[8], The Delhi High Court has approved a three-week parole for a man convicted under the NDPS Act. This decision was based on his need to gather funds to pay the fine imposed as part of his sentence and to rebuild connections with his family. The court opined that apart from the aim of reconnecting with family, the petitioner seeks parole primarily to secure funds for paying the fine.

In another case, Sri. M.C. Dileep Kumar @ Dileep vs State Of Karnataka[9], the court granted emergency parole of three weeks to the petitioner to attend a scheduled examination with the stipulated conditions.

Official Data

The Prison Management System, includes a Parole Log, where data relating to Parole Application, Leave Tracking, and Leave History is maintained.

Page 49, ePrisons Suite User Manual of Prison Management System (PMS) Date: August 26, 2019. available at
Page 48, ePrisons Suite User Manual of Prison Management System (PMS) Date: August 26, 2019. available at
Page 48, ePrisons Suite User Manual of Prison Management System (PMS) Date: August 26, 2019. available at

Kinds of Parole

Broadly similar across States, types of parole can be grouped into custody parole and regular parole. Custody parole may be considered as a type of emergency parole, and is granted on specific instances, which may include deaths in the family of the prisoner, or a marriage in the family of the prisoner[10]. The duration of custody parole or emergency parole usually depends on the specific state’s rules. On the other hand, regular parole is not granted specifically for these reasons, but may be granted in the event of an illness in the family, the delivery of a child by the wife of the prisoner, some natural calamity, etc[11].

Custody Parole

This concept pertains to the release of a prisoner who is only eligible for leave if under the supervision of a police escort for a stipulated number of hours, in cases constituting certain kinds of emergencies. For example, in Haryana, a list of ‘hardcore’ prisoners is maintained who may only be released on custody parole, subject to the fulfillment of some conditions. Similar provisions are in place in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but a significant number of states do not have any such provision for custody parole.

Emergency Parole

In order to understand the meaning of Emergency Parole, we may take the example of the provisions put forth by the Telangana State Prisons Department as illustrative of the provisions pertaining to emergency parole nationwide. The Telangana State rules provide emergency parole as a provision that can be availed of in the event of certain emergency circumstances, which may include, for example, the death ceremony of a close relative. The duration of parole granted in such circumstances is stipulated as being 24 hours. The authority empowered to sanction the granting of Emergency Parole is stipulated as being the Superintendents[12].

Here again, the permissible duration of parole varies from state to state. The Kerala rules allow for the Superintendent to grant emergency leave up to a 10-day period. Beyond this, the leave can be extended under certain circumstances based on the sanction first of the Director-General and later by the Government if leave is to be extended beyond 45 days. The circumstances wherein emergency parole may be granted in Kerala include the death or terminal illness of any one of a list of relatives, the marriage of any one of a list of relatives, and the complete or partial loss of a residential building[13].

The criteria that pertain to emergency parole are thus rather strict. The Jails Branch, Department of Home Affairs and Justice of the Government of Punjab, in order to have some checking measures against the provision of fake medical certificates, necessitates that in the case of emergency parole on medical grounds, any applications for the same that are accompanied by the provision of medical certificates must be approved by a committee that comprises a Civil Surgeon along with the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police.

State-Wise Provisions on Parole and Furlough

The Prisons Act allows for Indian States to form rules pertaining to parole and furlough. The particularities that can be decided by States when framing such rules include the amount of time a prisoner must have spent in prison before being eligible for parole or furlough, the maximum number of days that can be spent in parole or furlough in a calendar year, and the persons empowered to serve as Sanctioning Authorities in the event of applications for parole and furlough.

A few States’ provisions will be analyzed to exhibit the manner in which States go about framing rules and the subtle differences between States’ policies, and the extent to which the federal nature of allowing for the framing of parole / furlough rules allows for varied decisions from States.

Variations in Parole Provisions

Under the system of division of legislative powers in India, prison administration is a State subject - meaning, that different States may have in place different particularities pertaining to parole, even though parole is governed by central acts as well, the Prison Acts of 1894 and 1900. However, these acts empower States to formulate their own rules pertaining to parole. That being said, parole provisions are largely similar despite differences that may be discerned in State rules and prison manuals[14].

On the basis of duration

A consequence of having provisions that allow for states to frame their own parole and furlough policies is that maximum durations of parole or furlough vary from state to state - inconsistencies that have drawn criticism in recent times. For example, in Maharashtra, release on regular parole is permissible for 45 to 60 days, emergency parole is permissible for 14 days, release on furlough is permissible for 21 days if the prisoner is in the first five years of the sentence, or 28 days after this period. Tamil Nadu has provisions for ordinary leave for a 21 to 40 day period, emergency leave permitted till a 15-day period (which may be extended by the Government in the event of certain exceptional circumstances)[15].

On the basis of nature of the offence

We can take the example of Maharashtra - the most recent amendment to the Prisons (Bombay Parole and Furlough) Rules, 1959 resulted in a narrowing down[16] of the various circumstances that allow for prisoners to submit applications for furlough. This has been criticized on several grounds, including that it disallows those individuals who have committed certain crimes (which include dacoity, terrorism, and rape) from applying for furlough in the event that Courts nationwide do not have a coherent stance on whether individuals can be denied furlough on the basis of the nature of the offence committed. This is an example of an exclusion from applying for parole instituted at the State level, which highlights the variations that are possible in parole and furlough policies among states[17]. Another example of a state that restricts the granting of leave of a prisoner is Tamil Nadu, wherein the Prison Manual states that emergency leave cannot be granted to a prisoner who has been convicted of offenses for which the punishment is death or life in prison. Though this operates on a similar premise of making parole or furlough conditional on the nature of the offense, the same is achieved via the condition being based on the nature of sentencing specifically. Thus, even provisions with a similar premise or underlying logic differ on the basis of the terms of their operation.

Related Terms

The basic distinction between parole and the aforementioned statutory provisions that deal with bail is that though parole is a release (albeit provisional) from confinement, it is considered as constituting a part of imprisonment (a point stressed upon in State of Haryana v. Mohinder Singh[18]). Bail, on the other hand, differs on the ground that though constructive control over the accused is still retained by the Court via the sureties, the accused will be released from internment. Moreover, bail is before conviction whereas parole is after conviction. Also, to the best of my knowledge, parole does not include the term of imprisonment (furlough does).

It is not just the duration of days of leave permitted that differ from state to state, it is also the terminologies used to denote various kinds of leave. For example, in Odisha, the various terms used per State rules are ‘furlough’, ‘parole leave’ and ‘special leave’ - which may be availed of for up to four weeks, 30 days, and 12 days respectively[19]. In Kerala, state rules provide for ‘ordinary leave’ and ‘emergency leave’, for up to 60 days and 15 days respectively.

Research that Engages with Parole

The following research papers and documents engage with the concept of parole:

  1. Case law compilation by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  2. Oxford University Research Archive report on parole and furlough
  3. Critical analysis of laws governing parole in India
  4. Revisiting parole in India
  5. Comparative analysis of parole laws in India


  2. 5 Mrs. Narayan Medhi and Dr. AK Sinha, Parole the reformative instrument of punishment in prison, RESEARCH JOURNAL OF USLR
  3. Inder Singh v. State, 1978 AIR 1091
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