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This article has been written by Ayush Tiwari, a student of Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This article aims to provide a distinction between furlough and parole with the help of a case study.

This article has been published by Diva Rai.


The terms furlough and parole have distinct meanings. Parole and furlough laws are elements of the criminal and prison systems, with the goal of making them more humane. These guidelines allow the prisoner to be released and return to the outside world for a set amount of time. In the case of State of Gujarat v. Narayana (2021), the Supreme Court refused Narayan Sai’s request for a furlough, he was convicted of rape and is still incarcerated. Furlough is frequently mistaken for parole. However, the two terms have different meanings and are used in different situations. So, what does “Furlough” represent in criminal law, and how do the terms “Furlough” and “Parole” differ?

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What is furlough

Temporary leaves, home visits, and temporary community release are all terms used to describe furloughs. For decades, prisons have provided temporary furloughs to convicts who have been incarcerated for a lengthy time. It is needed to be given to the prisoner on a regular basis and is considered his right. It allows the prisoner to maintain his links to society and is regarded as a decrease in his sentence. It can’t be turned down.

What is parole

Parole is a mechanism that allows a prisoner to be released while their sentence is suspended. The release is conditional, and it is largely contingent on the prisoner’s behaviour and after he has completed a portion of his term in the state’s continuous custody. It necessitates reporting to the authorities on a regular basis for a certain amount of time. Parole is a “reformative” way of imprisonment. Parole is thus a grant of partial liberty or lessening of restrictions to a convict prisoner, but release on parole does not change the status of the prisoner. To humanize the jail system, the provision of parole was established. It is governed under the 1894 Prisons Act. Since prisons fall under the State List within the Constitution, each state has its own rules under which parole is granted to any prisoner. 

Difference between parole and furlough: State of Gujarat v. Narayana

The Supreme Court has debated the differences between “furlough” and “parole,” as well as the rules that govern their granting.

The State of Gujarat filed an appeal against a Gujarat High Court judgement granted two weeks’ furlough to self-proclaimed godman and rape criminal Asaram’s son Narayan Sai, who is also serving a life term for rape in a 2014 case. After his plea for furlough was dismissed by the DGP, the convict went to the High Court.

Observation of the court

The judgement pointed out that the Bombay Furlough and Parole Rules, (1959) do not give a prisoner a legal right to be released on furlough. Rule 3 and Rule 4 govern the granting of vacation. While Rule 3 establishes the conditions for granting furlough to convicts spending varying periods of time in jail, Rule 4 puts restrictions. Rule 3’s usage of the phrase “may be released” denotes the lack of an absolute right. This is further emphasised in Rule 17, which stipulates that the rules do not grant a prisoner a legal right to request furlough. The Court further observed that the Jail Superintendent had acquired a negative impression of the respondent as a result of their unlawful use of a mobile phone within the jail and attempts to contact the outside world.


The court under a bench composed of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna established guidelines for parole and furlough. The following are the guidelines:

  • The phrases “furlough” and “parole” allude to a brief time of temporary release from incarceration.
  • Unlike parole, which is granted for a specific cause, furlough can be granted for any reason once a certain number of years have been served.
  • Furlough is granted to break up the monotony of imprisonment and to allow the convict to maintain touch with his or her family and social integration.
  • While a prisoner has the ability to request furlough without stating a reason, he or she does not have an absolute legal right to do so.
  • Furloughs must be justified in the public interest, and particular categories of offenders may be denied to them.

Important cases which were taken as precedents

The bench further noted, citing several precedents, that while awarding parole or furlough, a balance must be struck between two competing objectives: the convict’s reform and the public purpose and interests of society.

State of Haryana & Other v. Mohinder Singh (2000)

In this instance, the Supreme Court distinguished both words quite clearly when it stated that- 

  • Parole and furlough are both forms of conditional release.
  • Parole can be awarded in the case of a short-term detention, whereas furlough is allowed in the case of a long-term detention.
  • Parole lasts for one month, whereas furlough lasts for a maximum of fourteen days.
  • The Divisional Commissioner grants parole, whereas the Deputy Inspector General of prisons grants furlough.
  • Parole requires a particular cause, whereas furlough is intended to break up the monotony of jail.
  • In the case of furlough, the duration of incarceration is not taken into account for calculating the term of parole.
  • Parole can be given an unlimited number of times, whereas furlough has a restriction.
  • Furlough might be rejected in the interest of society because it is not provided for any specific purpose.

Asfaq v. State of Rajasthan, (2017)

In this case, it was discussed that a parole is a conditional release of a prisoner, which is described as an early release conditional on good behaviour and regular reporting to the authorities for a specified duration. It is also a type of conditional pardon in which the offender gets released before the end of his sentence. As a result, parole is granted for good behaviour on the condition that the parolee report to a supervising officer on a regular basis for a fixed period of time. A prisoner on parole might be released on a temporary basis for various reasons. In that case, it is to be viewed as a temporary suspension of the punishment, with the penalty’s quantum being unchanged. The purpose of parole is to provide some respite to inmates in certain circumstances.

Furlough, on the other hand, is a time period spent outside of jail. It’s conditional, and it’s only offered if you’ve been imprisoned for a long time. The period of sentence spent on furlough by the prisoners need not be undergone by him as is done in the case of parole. Furlough is given as a reward for excellent behaviour.

State of Maharashtra v. Suresh Pandurang Darvakar, (2006)

In this case, it was discussed that while both parole and furlough are temporary releases from incarceration, parole is only issued for a specified reason. Once a prisoner has served the required number of years as provided in Rule 3, he is eligible to request for furlough.

The terms “furlough” and “parole” have two distinct meanings. When releasing a prisoner on furlough, it is not essential to explain the reasons, but in the event of parole, the reasons must be stated in accordance with Rule 19. However, as extracted from Rule 17, release on furlough cannot be regarded to be an absolute entitlement of the prisoner. It is subject to the requirements of Rules 4(4) and 6. Furlough is granted on a regular basis under Rule 3 for no specific reason other than to allow the prisoner to maintain family ties, familial and social relationships, and to prevent the negative effects of prolonged prison life. Furlough is considered as if it were a term spent in prison. However, Rule 20 states that time spent on parole does not contribute toward sentence remission.


The distinction between parole and furlough has been adequately explored in the decision. This reduces the chances of making a mistake or being confused about the issue. This case law, as well as the other aforementioned case laws, are relied upon. The main distinction is that, although parole is provided to allow a prisoner to address a specific need, furlough can be granted once a certain number of years have been served without any reason. Every citizen should have a vested interest in assisting recidivists in effectively reintegrating into society. Ex-offenders who don’t have a strong support structure once they leave prison are more likely to never reintegrate back into society since they have no employment prospects, no understanding of communal coexistence, and no financial means to get back on their feet.


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