Coronavirus | SC notice to States on parole to those facing up to 7-year term

The apex court said prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having prison terms up to seven years can be given parole to decongest the jails.

March 23, 2020 03:04 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:43 am IST - New Delhi

 For Daily:: .  The Supreme Court of India  . ..Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.  (19-09-2003)

For Daily:: . The Supreme Court of India . ..Photo: Rajeev Bhatt. (19-09-2003)

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the State governments to consider giving parole to those facing up to seven-year jail term in a bid to decongest prisons on account of the COVID-19 outbreak .

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde ordered each State and Union Territory (UT) to constitute a high-powered committee of the chairman of State Legal Services Committee, Principal Home Secretary and Director General of Prisons to determine the class of prisoners who can be released on parole or interim bail after considering the nature and severity of offence, the number of years of imprisonment, etc. Similarly, the undertrial review committees should also meet every week.

The court noted that States such as Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Jharkhand, Goa, Kerala, Telangana and UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Chandigarh to allow visitors to interact with prisoners through video or telephone call. They have also adopted COVID-19 screening of prisoners returning from parole.

The Uttar Pradesh government has constituted ‘COVID-19 Special Task Force’ in all 71 prisons to monitor the prevention of transmission. Rajasthan and Jharkhand had taken measures to decongest prisons by transferring prisoners to other facilities. Punjab has asked the authorities to identify temporary places to hold prisoners in case of an outbreak of the virus.


Physical presence of all the undertrial prisoners before courts have been stopped forthwith and recourse to videoconferencing must be taken for all purposes. Routine prisoner transfers have also been stopped. 

“An overview of the responses reflects that considerable measures for protection of health and welfare of the prisoners to restrict the transmission of COVID-19 have been taken by the State governments,” the court observed.

On March 16, the court took suo motu  cognisance of the risk of COVID-19 infection spreading within and from the overcrowded prisons across the country. The court had lauded Kerala for its initiatives to control the infection spreading from prisons.

The March 16 order observed that social distancing, an effective antidote against the virus spread, was difficult in prisons. There were 1339 prisons with approximately 4,66,084 inmates. The court said the National Crime Records Bureau showed the occupancy rate of Indian prisons at 117.6%.

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