LtoR: Justice L Nageswara Rao, CJI NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant.

SC orders release of prisoners who were released last year to decongest jails and stem Covid surge

THE Supreme Court Friday directed the release of all inmates who had been released last year pursuant to the court’s order to decongest jails to prevent the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic in prisons.

It also directed the High Powered Committee constituted by the state governments and union territories to consider a fresh release by imposing appropriate conditions.

Besides, the court said those inmates who were granted parole last year in accordance with the court’s order should be granted parole again for a period of 90 days in order to tide over the pandemic.

A three-judge bench of CJI NV Ramana, L Nageswara Rao, and Surya Kant passed these directions on applications that were filed seeking the release of inmates in view of the second wave of Covid19.

It said from limiting arrests to taking care of Covid­19 Patients, there is a requirement for effective management of the pandemics from within the prison walls so as to defeat this deadly virus.

The bench directed that all decisions of the High ­Powered Committees must be published on the websites of all state legal service authorities, state governments and high courts in order to enable effective dissemination of information.

Besides, the bench directed the authorities to be considerate to the concerns of the inmates by providing them with proper medical facilities.

The spread of the Covid­19 virus should be controlled in the prisons by regular testing of the prisoners as well as the jail staff and immediate treatment should be made available to the inmates and the staff.

The top court in March last year had taken a suo motu cognisance of the risk of COVID-19 infection spreading within and from overcrowded prisons across the country and passed a slew of directions for the release of inmates.

Months later,  due to the reduction in the number of active cases, the released prisoners were directed to report back to prisons. Ninety percent of the prisoners who were released last year returned to prison in February and March 2021.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that the High Powered Committees which had been constituted pursuant to the orders passed by the apex court on 25.03.2020 should be directed to release all those prisoners who were released last year on regular bail. Such of those inmates who have been granted parole last year should be granted 90 days parole by this court.

The court found merit in Gonsalves’s submissions and proceeded to order the release of inmates who were released last year.

Click here to read the order

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