Don’t seek surrender of those on interim bail, Supreme Court tells States

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the States to not, for the time being, ask for the surrender of prisoners released on interim bail during the second wave of the pandemic to decongest prisons.

“For the time being, they should not be asked to surrender until further orders,” a Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana ordered.

The CJI Bench ordered the NALSA and the State governments to submit a detailed report on the criteria/norms considered by the respective High Powered Committees for releasing prisoners on interim bail. Copies of the report should be served to the Union government and amicus curiae, senior advocate Dushyant Dave.

The court listed the case for hearing on Friday.

May order

In early May, the court turned a humanitarian eye to the over four lakh prison population trapped inside overcrowded jails even as a surging second wave led to huge loss of lives. Then, a Bench led by the CJI observed that “India has more than four lakh prison inmates. It is observed that some of the prisons in India are overburdened and are housing inmates beyond optimal capacity…. The requirement of decongestion is a matter concerning the health and right to life of both the prison inmates and the police personnel working”.

The court had even ordered the police to limit arrests during the pandemic to prevent overcrowding of jails and urged magistrates to not order detention in a mechanical manner in cases involving the punishment of less or up to seven years’ imprisonment.

It had further ordered special committees or ‘High-Powered Committees’ constituted in most States and Union Territories to screen prisoners and release them on interim bail.

The order had also taken into consideration those released on interim bail in the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. The court had ordered them to be freed “forthwith”. Ninety per cent of inmates released last year had returned to their prisons in February and March 2021.

More importantly, the court had also taken into consideration the plight of prisoners too scared to return home, though eligible for release on interim bail or parole, owing to their social circumstances or simply because they were afraid they would get infected with COVID-19 while outside. In such cases, the court ordered proper medical facilities, immediate treatment and regular tests for both inmates and jail staff. It said maintenance of daily hygiene in prisons should be put at a premium.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 8:30:20 AM |

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