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COVID-19: Kerala HC Orders To Release UT Prisoners Charged With Offences Punishable Upto 7 Yrs Released On Interim Bail,Interim Orders Extended To May 18 [Read Order]

Akshita Saxena
30 March 2020 1:05 PM GMT
COVID-19: Kerala HC Orders To Release UT Prisoners Charged With Offences Punishable Upto 7 Yrs Released On Interim Bail,Interim Orders Extended To May 18 [Read Order]
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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:

  • The Superintendent of the jails concerned shall release the category of prisoners with respect to whom the interim bail is granted as mentioned above, on their furnishing a declaration showing their intended place of residence, with their telephone number and the telephone number of any of their family member or other relatives, and on executing a self bond, without sureties, ensuring that they will appear either before the court concerned or before the Superintendent of jail as and when required.
  • The prisoners released on interim bail as above shall report to the local police station within their place of residence, immediately on reaching its jurisdiction. The jail authorities shall also give due intimation to such police stations with respect to release of the prisoners. The declaration executed by the prisoners shall also contain an undertaking to the effect that they will strictly abide by the guidelines issued with respect to keeping of social distancing, in the wake of the declared lock down. They shall also undertake that they will remain in their declared place of residence, totally avoiding any type of travel or exposure to public.
  • We also make it clear that, the person released on interim bail as above shall be liable to be arrested and produced before the jurisdictional court, in case of violation of any of the conditions stipulated as above or in case they are found indulging in any activity endangering law and order or breach of public order and tranquility, or in any manner intimidating or influencing the witnesses.

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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