Big task ahead for DG (Prisons) as paroled inmates set to return

Outside Tihar jail in Delhi.   | Photo Credit: SHIVKUMARPUSHPAKAR

With over 6,800 inmates, who were released on interim bail or parole, set to surrender again following a Delhi High Court’s decision last week, the total population of the prisons is likely to reach an unprecedented 22,000, which may become unmanageable owing to the present COVID-19 situation.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel has informed a high-powered committee (HPC) set up to look into decongesting jails pursuant to the COVID-19 outbreak, that till date only on one occasion the maximum population of Delhi prisons has touched 18,000.

The development came following an HC decision on October 23 to end its blanket order extending all interim stays and bails granted during the lockdown as the situation has improved.

Significant number

The DG (Prison) told the committee that at present, the total population of inmates inside the jails was around 15,800. He informed that owing to the High Court order, over 2,300 under trial prisoners (UTPs) or convicts will surrender by November 13, raising the population of inmates significantly.

Mr. Goel, further, said if another 3,337 UTPs and 1,182 convicts who have been granted ‘interim bail/emergency parole’ under different criteria laid down by the HPC, are asked to surrender during the same duration, then the total population of Delhi prison is likely to reach 22,000.

This, the DG (Prisons) said, would be “unprecedented and may become unmanageable, owing to the present situation and circumstances”.

Calls for extension

The HPC, headed by Justice Hima Kohli, taking note of the situation opined that interim bail granted to 3,337 UTPs under its criteria needs to be extended for a further period of 30 days.

The HPC said it would be “highly inconvenient” for the jail authorities to accommodate UTPs and convicts released on ‘interim bail/emergency parole’ under its criteria, alongside those who would be surrendering in terms of the High Court’s orders. The recommendations of the HPC will be forwarded to the High Court for necessary action. The committee also stressed that its earlier decision to relax the criteria for grant of interim bail to the UTPs were made to help decongestion and to avoid the spread of virus in the jails. “...While doing so, it was to be kept in mind that the benefit of interim bail granted in such circumstances, cannot be to the detriment of social order,” the committee said.

Since courts have resumed functioning through physical mode/videoconferencing mode, the committee has decided not to further relax the criteria for the purposes of recommending grant of interim bail to the UTPs.

Cases in prisons

Of the three active cases of COVID-19 among jail inmates, one is admitted in Lok Nayak Hospital, the other is recuperating in DDU Hospital. The third jail inmate is admitted in Maharaja Agarsen Hospital.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 2:03:57 PM |

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