SC stays surrender of 2,674 undertrials in Delhi
National Forum On Prison Reforms V Government Of Nct Of Delhi & Ors. With Case Diary No 23367 Of 2020 | Supreme Court of India | Status: pending | |
The present Special Leave petition challenged Hon’ble High Court of Delhi order dated 20.10.2020. The impugned order is completely against the spirit of the order dated 23.3.2020 passed by this Hon’ble Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition: WP (C) no.1 of 2020, Court on its own Motion vs. State & Ors, In Re: Extension of Interim Orders, wherein the Hon’ble High Court has brushed aside, without even perusing, the 8 recommendations/ orders of High Powered Committee (HPC) of the Delhi High Court appointed by this Hon’ble Court for the release of prisoners on account of the real possibility of Covid spreading in the 16 Delhi Jails. This order was made by grossly misunderstanding the data presented to the High Court and wrongly concluding that only 3 Covid cases existed among the 16,000 inmates. Secondly, the observations regarding release of prisoners in jails as undertrials on the allegation that they had committed so called “heinous crime” was dealt with by the HPC carefully and reasons given, but these have not even been looked at.
The orders of the Apex Court were made principally on the basis that the rate of occupancy in the Delhi jails was in excess of 170% and the spread of Covid in the prisons was a real danger. Hence the High Powered Committees were ordered to be established to define the criteria for release of prisoners so that the prison population went at least down to the capacity of the jails if not lower to maintain the new norm of social distancing.
Relevant portion of the impugned order is extracted below:
i. “As far as the first category of 2318 undertrials involved in heinous crimes, who were granted interim bail by the District Courts, there shall be no further extension of interim bails under the orders of this Court. However, to facilitate their surrender before jail authorities and to avoid any inconvenience being caused to the jail authorities during surrender of a large number of under trials,
(a) The prisoners of Central District, Tis Hazari Courts, shall surrender on it is ordered that the surrender shall take place in the following phased manner:
(b) The prisoners of West District, Tis Hazari Courts, shall surrender on 2nd November, 2020. 3rd November, 2020.
(c)The prisoners of Patiala House Courts, New Delhi District shall surrender on
(d)The prisoners of East District, Karkardooma Courts, shall surrender on 4 th November, 2020.
(e) The prisoners of North East District, Karkardooma Courts shall surrender on 5th November, 2020.
(f) The prisoners of Shahdara District, Karkardooma Courts shall surrender on 6 th November, 2020.
(g)The prisoners of North District, Rohini Court shall surrender on 7th November, 2020. (h)The prisoners of North West District, Rohini Courts shall surrender on 8 th November, 2020.
(i) The prisoners of South West District, Dwarka Courts shall surrender on 9 th November, 2020.
(j) The prisoners of South District, Saket Courts, shall surrender on 10th November, 2020. (k)The prisoners of South East District, Saket Courts, shall surrender on 11th November, 2020.
(l) The prisoners of Rouse Avenue Courts Complex, New Delhi shall surrender on 12th November, 2020. 13th November, 2020.
i. The above 2,318 prisoners are at liberty to move the respective courts for extension of their interim bails and the concerned courts shall consider the said applications for extension of interim bails on its own merits and take a decision accordingly without being influenced by any order passed by this Court in the past.
ii.As far as 2,907 prisoners, who have been granted bail on the recommendation of High Power Committee are concerned, a request is made to the High Power Committee to take a decision in respect of the said prisoners within ten days from today.
iii. As far as 356 prisoners granted interim bail by this Court are concerned, they shall surrender before the concerned jail superintendent(s) on 13th November, 2020. However, as stated above, all the above 356 prisoners are at liberty to move applications for extension of their interim bails before the concerned benches of this Court, if so advised, and their applications will be considered on merit without being influenced by any order passed by this Full Bench.”
Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves arguing for the Petitioners, informed the court that the DG Prisons has himself opposed the recall of these prisoners, as this would increase the risk of the spread of virus in the jails, which they would not be able to control. The DG Prisons in his statement to the HPC has observed that “it would be a dangerous proposition” if these prison inmates were recalled.
Bench comprising of Justice Nageshwar Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Ajay Rastogi of the Hon'ble Supreme Court vide order dated 29.10.2020 ordered the stay of directions (i), (ii) and (iv) given in para 7 of the impugned order dated 20.10.2020 passed by the High Court of Delhi effectively staying the surrender of the prisoners out on interim bail.