In light of the coronavirus outbreak, a plea has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking temporary release of inmates from Tihar, Mandawali and Rohini prisons.
Filed by Advocate Shobha Gupta, the petition highlights that the COVID19 virus has already reached three major prisons of Delhi. It is highlighted:
'on 18.3.2020, the Tihar Jail has quarantined about 18 inmates, who are suspected of 'corona virus'. There are 8 foreign nationals, who have been isolated in Tihar Jail. A similar situation is seen in the Rohini Jail as well,where three persons from jail number 3, five from jail number 5, three from jail number 8-9 and one from jail number 10 have been put up in isolation. Similar isolations have been done in Mandawali Jail as well.'
Citing data on overcrowding and ageing population in prisons, the petition seeks 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 is 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 is submitted, Magistrates can be posted in concerned jails so that inmates do not have to travel to courts and create overcrowding in court premises.
It also pointed out that by an order dated 16/03/2020, the Supreme Court has also taken suo moto cognisance of the spread of coronavirus in jails, whereby it has issued notice to submit reply stating the steps that have been taken for prevention of coronavirus in jails.
Further, it was informed to the court that the Tihar administration has suspended the meeting of relatives inside the jail seeing the situation which is prevalent. Moreover, an isolation ward has been set up in the Tihar Jail.
'In jails the inmates are at higher risk than in other settings, such as schools and restaurants, that have been closed to check the spread, more so when our jails are overcrowded. Although correction facilities cannot be closed, they must be included in any plan aimed at slowing the surge in infections and protecting public safety', the petition states.