SC Guidelines to Decongest Prisons


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.

 Read Also :-Promoting fair and effective criminal system

Way forward-

  • 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

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