Synopsis- The Supreme Court has issued a slew of directions to decongest jails in light of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In order to protect prisoners’ right to life, the SC has ordered States to examine releasing inmates [convicted or facing trial in non-serious charges] on bail or parole to prevent overcrowding and spread of Covid-19 infection in prisons.
Key highlights of the order-
To prevent any uncontrollable spread within the congested jail, The Supreme Court issues the following orders-
- To stop the transporting of remand prisoners to court for a periodical extension of custody and hearings.
- HPCs should consider the release of all prisoners who were released last year – Those inmates who were granted parole, pursuant to our earlier orders, should be again granted parole for a period of 90 days”.
- Also, authorities were directed to put Section 436A of the CrPC into force – Undertrial prisoners, who have served half of the max sentence imposes to be released on personal bond.
- No arrests in violation of Arnesh Kumar judgment – Authorities should not make arrests in breach of the guidelines laid down in the 2014 judgment [Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar]. In which police were directed not to make needless arrests, especially in cases involving sentences of less than seven years.
- The SC directed
- Authorities to prepare readiness and response plans.
- State governments to form HCPs (high-powered committees).
- Delhi’s government to include the Commissioner of Police in the HCP.
- Prison occupancy to be updated on websites by all states.
- Appropriate steps should be taken for the transportation of the released inmates.
Challenges of prisons during COVID times-
- Uncertainty regarding medical care- It’s uncertain if the testing facilities and medical treatment provided to prisoners are successful or not.
- Political prisoners are being repeatedly denied bail due to stringent laws have been invoked against them.
- For example-
- Those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case without any direct link to any act of violence.
- Some political activists in Delhi are also in jail under anti-terrorism laws for alleged complicity in riots early last year.
- For example-
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- The SC’s decision to decongest jails and measures that protects the right to life and health of the prisoners is a positive development, but effective follow-up action is needed to insure that these measures are not implemented selectively.
- The courts also take into account political prisoner’s vulnerability to infection and consider bail.
Source- The Hindu