Civil Society Organizations, Lawyers & Academicians Write To MP High Court Chief Justice For De-Congestion Of Prisons
A group of 27 civil society organisations, lawyers, academics and journalists have written a letter to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court requesting immediate decongestion of prisons of the state in the light of second wave of Covid19. The letter is signed by 10 human rights organization and 17 eminent academicians, lawyers and journalists including Advocate Apar...
In the letter, the signatories have expressed concerns that high overcrowding has endangered prisoners' right to life and right to health during the rapid spread of the virus in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It notes that Madhya Pradesh's prisons have a capacity of housing between 28,000-29,000 individuals but as of 31st March, 2021 they hold 49,763 individuals in total and 32,263 undertrials, with overcrowding at an all time high of 174%. 115 of MP's 131 jails are overcrowded; seven jails have an occupancy of over 300%. The undertrial population is nearly two-thirds of the overall prison population.
The letter reasons that the increase in prison population is predominantly due to indiscriminate arrests by the police, even for minor offences, and limited access to bail due to the limited functioning of the courts during the pandemic.
The letter requests the Chief Justice of the High Court to undertake urgent measures for granting bail, extending emergency parole and ensuring the functioning of the Undertrial Review Committees as per the Standard Operating Procedure drafted by NALSA.
It notes that following accused should be granted immediate bail-
- all accused persons in judicial custody for offences punishable by 7 years or less
- all undertrials over 45 years of age
- undertrial women including pregnant women and women with children, as well as gender minorities.
- undertrials with comorbidities who are at risk of contracting COVID as well as other critically ill inmates.
- undertrials with disabilities, including long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory disabilities, as defined by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.
The letter also lists categories of convicts whose emergency parole shall be extended which includes all convicts over the age of 45 years, pregnant women, women with children, gender minorities, convicts with comorbidities and convicts with disabilities as defined under the relevant laws.
Other requests in the letter include universal and continuous testing in prisons, issuing vaccination orders for prisons in line with WHO guidelines, increasing prison budgets for improving health infrastructure, public declaration of information about positive infections, testing and vaccination in prisons in order to ensure accountability and timely prison wise reporting of above directions through Director General of Prisons.
The letter also stresses importance of long term measures to so that the prison population remains manageable even in normal circumstances.
In 2020, a PIL (WP No. 8391/2020) had also been filed before the Madhya Pradesh High Court pleading decongestion which remains pending.
On May 7, the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions for de-congestion of prisons. The Court had directed, inter-alia, the High Powered Committees of States to release all prisoners who were granted emergency parole last year during the pandemic.