On October 26, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over the release of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) chief Dushyant Chautala’s father Ajay Chautala from Tihar Jail on a two-week leave. She tweeted: “The machine to wash corruption charges is on”.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) October 26, 2019
She blasted the BJP because, within hours of the BJP’s announcement to form alliance government with JJP, Ajay Chautala, serving a 10-year sentence in an illegal recruitment scam case, was granted a two-week furlough from Tihar Jail.
The ruling party in Delhi – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) put out a statement saying “the BJP has rewarded Ajay Chautala for support of JJP to BJP Govt in Haryana.” But the Congress in Delhi accused the AAP government of granting furlough to Chautala.
Countering the accusation, the AAP said that furlough is granted by DG Tihar Jail and has been done without any consultation with the Delhi Home Minister or for that matter with anyone in the government.
What exactly happened? Who gave Chautala his two weeks of freedom? Was there a political consideration behind the grant of furlough? To get to the bottom of the matter India Today TV filed a Right to Information Application with the office of Director General (DG) of Prisons, Tihar Jail.
In response to the question – who decided to grant furlough to Ajay Singh Chautala in October 2019. The office of the DG Prisons said, “Director General of Prisons is the Competent Authority to grant furlough”. This suggests that that the state government may not have played any role in it.
Our second question was – when did Ajay Singh Chautala apply for furlough? The response was, “Convict Ajay Chautala S/o Om Prakash Chautala applied for furlough on 03/10/2019.”
This means that it took 23 days for his application to get a positive response. Chautala got his furlough within hours of the JJP-BJP alliance deal in Harayana, which may or may not be a matter of coincidence.
The RTI response to the question of dates does not conclusively point to a quid pro quo.
We asked – On what ground was Ajay Singh Chautala granted furlough? In response to this Tihar DG said, “As per DPR 2018, no ground is required for the grant of furlough.” In a separate response to the same query, Jail no 2 of Tihar where Ajay Chautala was imprisoned, said, “It is granted on eligibility basis.”
On our request to provide a certified copy of his application along with the last page of the file on which this order was granted – DG Tihar responded – “Information cannot be provided being third party information.” Jail No 2, in its response, said “this information cannot be proved in view of Sec 8 (1) (j) of Right To Information Act 2005, being third party information. Convict Ajay Chaulata, has denied sharing any of his information sought in the application under the RTI Act 2005.”
We further asked – How many prisoners have been granted furlough in September and October 2019? In response Jail no 2 said 78 prisoners had applied for it in September and barring one 77 got it. In October, there were 112 applications and 106 got the approval of the jail authority.