The Bombay High Court has directed the high power committee constituted by the state government to decide whether the distinction made between prisoners/undertrials accused under IPC and those under special enactments like MPID, MCOCA, NDPS, PMLA, UAPA etc for release on parole due to the pandemic of Covid-19, is discriminatory.
Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a suo motu writ petition which was converted into a petition after Advocate SB Talekar wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court highlighting the fact that the Supreme Court's order dated March 23 does not make any such discrimination between the two categories of prisoners/undertrials.
The Supreme Court had directed all the States and Union Territories to constitute a high power committee to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole.
In a press note dated March 26, 2020, the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh informed the general public that the State Government has taken a decision to release under-trial prisoners/prisoners convicted up to 7 years imprisonment. It was stated that approximately up to 11000 prisoners would be released on emergency parole, initially for 45 days by undertaking appropriate medical check, etc.
Advocate SB Talekar appeared in the matter and argued that the State was not acting expeditiously in releasing the prisoners. He further submitted that the Supreme Court did not make any distinctions between prisoners/undertrials and therefore the said decision of the High Power Committee is discriminatory.
Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare told the Court that in a letter dated April 20 addressed to him by the Additional DG (Prisons), it is stated that none of the prisons in the State of Maharashtra have a single positive case of coronavirus.
Moreover, 4060 prisoners/under-trials have already been released on bail as per the decision of the High Power Committee. He states that further action is being taken to release the prisoners so identified and falling within the parameters of the decision of the High Power Committee.
Thus, the Court observed-
"In the aforesaid circumstances, I am of the opinion, that as the State Government is already in the process of releasing 11000 prisoners by following the appropriate procedure, it is not necessary to issue any immediate directions. However, it is clarified that the State Government may expedite such steps which are being taken, so that the orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court are implemented in letter and spirit.
In regard to the contention of Mr. Talekar about the alleged discrimination being meted out to the prisoners under the decision of the High Power Committee as noted above, it would be appropriate that the High Power Committee considers the representation as made by Mr. Talekar, as early as possible and decide the same."
This case will now be heard on April 30.
Click Here To Download Order