In a case registered suo moto, a Full Bench of the Kerala High Court has extended the subsistence of all the interim orders passed by it and the courts subordinate to it till May 18.
Earlier, the High Court had extended the life of all interim orders till April 14. However, in an order passed today, the bench comprising of Justice CK Abdul Rahim, Justice CT Ravikumar and Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V said,
"it is made clear that the extension granted to the interim orders, through order of this court dated 25-03-2020 will stand further extended upto 18-05-2020, the date of re-opening of the courts after mid-summer vacation. However the aggrieved party will be at liberty to move for vacating such orders, before the appropriate court."
Further, in compliance with the Supreme Court orders, the bench has also released prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having jail term of up to seven years on interim bail up to April 30, in order to decongest jails. Notably, the order does not apply to habitual offenders, persons with criminal antecedents, etc.
On Monday, March 23, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had directed all states and Union Territories to set up 'High Level Committees' to determine the class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks. It also observed that the prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having jail term of up to seven years can be given parole to decongest jails.
In view thereof, the High Court had left the matter to be decided by the 'High Powered Committee'. However, in order to avoid any further delay, the Full bench has ordered:
"This court hereby grants interim bail to all under-trial / remanded prisoners incarcerated in the jails within the State, who face accusation of having committed offences punishable upto 7 years or less, with or without fine. The above order will not apply to prisoners having any criminal antecedents, previous convictions or in the case of habitual offenders; and also with respect to persons undergoing trial or remanded custody in more than one cases.
The interim bail granted as above shall be limited upto 30-04-2020 or till the end of the lock down period by the Government, whichever is earlier. In case the lock down period is extended beyond 30-04-2020, the interim bail granted will continue till such extended period. On expiry of the period of interim bail as mentioned above, person released prisoner shall appear before the jurisdictional court within 3 days thereof. On such appearance, the court concerned shall consider his application for bail and shall pass appropriate order, taking note of all circumstances and attendant factors."
With regards the procedure to be followed for release of such prisoners and the rules to be observed by the prisoners while they are out, the court directed:
With regards the hearing of bail applications of under-trial / remanded prisoners, who will not fall within the category for which interim bail is granted through this order, as well as for moving for statutory bail under Section 167 (2) CrPC, the court has authorized the Sessions Judges in the State "to consider such bail applications submitted through e-mail and to dispose of such applications through Videoconferencing, after hearing the Advocate concerned as well as the public prosecutor. The modalities with respect to consideration of such bail application and its disposal will be prescribed by the Registry of this court and will be circulated through Office Memorandum to all the courts."
The High Court has also clarified that the division bench appointed by it to hear extremely urgent cases, including bail applications, will continue to sit during the period of lock down.
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