Don’t seek surrender of those on interim bail: SC

Source: The Hindu 

What is the news?

The Supreme Court directed the states to not ask for the surrender of prisoners released on interim bail during the second wave. The order aims to keep prisons decongested during the pandemic, thereby upholding the right to life of prisoners and police personnel working in them.

  • A special bench of the SC ordered the States to not ask for the surrender of prisoners released on interim bail during the second wave of the pandemic. They shouldn’t be released until further orders.
  • The order would help in keeping prisons decongested and augment health conditions of prisoners and police personnel working in them. This would also uphold their right to life granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court has played a proactive role in protecting the rights of prisoners during the second wave, as evident from its May 2021 directives.
May 2021 directives by Supreme Court:
  • In early May, the court turned a humanitarian eye to the over four lakh prison population trapped inside overcrowded jails. It observed that some prisons in India are overburdened and were housing inmates beyond optimal capacity. 
  • The ‘High-Powered Committees’ constituted in most States and Union Territories were ordered to screen prisoners and release them on interim bail.
  • The SC directed  the police to limit arrests during the pandemic to prevent overcrowding of jails. 
  • It also urged magistrates to not order detention in a mechanical manner in cases involving the punishment of less or up to seven years’ imprisonment.
  • 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 immediately, as 90% of inmates released last year had returned to their prisons in February and March 2021.
  • 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. They didn’t want to return owing to their social circumstances or simply because they were afraid to get infected with COVID-19 in the outside world.
    • 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.

The recent order is a testimony to the fact that the judiciary is prudently playing its role of being the guardian and protector of the fundamental rights of every citizen.

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