The Delhi Government has informed the Delhi High Court that it is proposing to bring about an array of changes in the Delhi Prison Rules to deal with the growing concern of coronavirus.
The response has come in a plea seeking release of certain nature of inmates in major prisons in Delhi, such as Tihar and Rohini jails, in order to curb the further spreading of COVID19 virus in the prison premises.
Appearing for Delhi Government, Additional Standing Counsel Anuj Aggarwal informed the court that the State Government is proposing to issue a notification in exercise of its power under section 71 of the Delhi Prisons Act to add Rules 1219A and 1243A in the Delhi Prison Rules.
These new rules will introduce '60 days parole' in one step, instead of two spells of 30 days each, in a year.
In addition to this, a temporary facility of special furlough will be introduced for those category of prisoners and for such number of days as may be specified in the order.
The government has identified special circumstances as emergency situations like threat of epidemic, natural disaster or any other situation or circumstances which warrants immediate easing of inmate population in their interest and the interest of the society at large.
It was also informed to the court that the Delhi Government has also proposed to amend Rule 1202 of Delhi Prison Rules to introduce the expression 'emergency parole', which shall authorise the government to grant parole for upto 8 weeks in one spell, in addition to the regular parole, subject to such conditions as prescribed by the government.
The State Government further submitted that in respect of the undertrial prisoners (UTPs), who are booked in only 1 case in which the maximum sentence is imprisonment for 7 years or less, and who have completed minimum 3 months in jail, the government has proposed to grant them interim bail for 45 days upon a request made by them, preferably on a personal bond.
While taking these submissions into consideration, the Division Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad dismissed the petition as the Supreme Court has already taken a suo-moto cognisance of the similar subject matter.
The Supreme Court on Monday directed States/UTs to set up panels to consider the grant of parole to prisoners in lesser offences.
Citing data on overcrowding and ageing population in prisons, the petition had demanded release of all the inmates above the age of 50 years and/or those who are not medically fit, undergoing imprisonment for petty and minor offences, for their safety so as to protect them from being infected by the coronavirus.
It was highlighted by the Petitioner that she's not seeking an unconditional release of the inmates. She has argued that bail bonds, sureties and undertakings can be put as conditions to such releases.
In order to carry out this process, it was submitted, Magistrates can be posted in concerned jails so that inmates do not have to travel to courts and create overcrowding in court premises.
Petitioner in this case was represented by Advocates Khushbu Sahu and Piyush Sanghi.
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