16 July 2021 5:35 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that all prisoners who have been released by the High Powered Committees of states in the wake of COVID pandemic pursuant to the May 7 order in the suo motu case should not be asked to surrender until further orders.The top court also directed all state governments to submit a report before it by next Friday detailing how the May 7 order was implemented and...
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that all prisoners who have been released by the High Powered Committees of states in the wake of COVID pandemic pursuant to the May 7 order in the suo motu case should not be asked to surrender until further orders.
The top court also directed all state governments to submit a report before it by next Friday detailing how the May 7 order was implemented and the criteria adopted by the HPCs to release the prisoners on emergency parole taking note of the COVID situation.
The bench observed that there is no uniform criteria across the states. The States have to explain if they have considered factors like age, comorbidities while granting parole. The states should also explain if prisoners whose appeals are pending in higher courts were also considered for release by HPCs.
The Court has also directed the Secretary of the National Legal Services Authority to collect the details from the states. The matter will be next considered on August 3.
A three-Judge Bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice AS Bopanna was hearing its suo motu case regarding decongestion of prisons during the Covid pandemic. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, the amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that there is no information available on how the May 7 order has been implemented by different states. The amicus curiae also requested the bench to restrain states from asking the released prisoners to surrender back for some time in view of the threat of third wave of COVID pandemic.
Last year, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court had directed the constitution of High Powered Committees in all states to consider the release of convicts and under-trials in less heinous offences on interim bail or parole so as to de-congest prisons.
The Supreme Court had suggested that the HPCs could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are undertrial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum.
The HPCs were to consist of (i) Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, (ii) the Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) by whatever designation is known as, (ii) Director General of Prison(s).
When the pandemic started to recede by November-December last year, many High Courts/HPCs cancelled the interim bail, and asked the prisoners to surrender.
The Supreme Court had on June 1st clarified that the constitution of High-Powered Committees in State Governments to de-congest prisons will not stand in the way of remission boards considering applications for remissions of prisoners under Sections 432, 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
A vacation bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose had clarified that the order passed on May 7 - which directed the HPCs to consider grant of parole or interim bail to identified categories of prisoners to decongest prisons during the pandemic - will not affect the functioning of remission boards.
(Case : In Re Contagion of COVID Virus in Prisons)
Click here to read/download the order