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Supreme Court orders immediate de-congestion of prisons amidst sudden surge of Covid-19

CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN PRISONS | Supreme Court of India | Status: Pending | |

The present petition mentioned is a suo-motu writ petition Suo Motu WP(C) 1 of 2020 under Article 32 of the Constitution of India taken up by Hon’ble Supreme Court in view of the Coronavirus Pandemic that has gripped the world, and especially affects the prison population, as the virus is highly contagious. 

'National Forum for Prison Reforms’ a non-registered forum of six organisations is an intervenor in the above mentioned matter and filed an Intervention Application for release of Undertrial Prisoners and Convicts on interim bail/ parole for a further period in view of the rising cases of Covid. In a hard hitting and far reaching order that holds the potential to bring relief to about more than 60,000 under trial prisoners and convict prisoners and people in detention centres, the Supreme Court on 07.05.2021 directed all the Union Territories and States as under:

(i) All States and UTs need to strictly adhere to the guidelines set out in Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273 while arresting persons during the pandemic (to ensure police officers do not arrest the accused unnecessarily) 

(ii)  The High Powered Committees (HPC) which were constituted in different states should consider additional release of prisoners by adopting the Standard Operating Procedure set out by NALSA

(iii) The states which did not constitute the HPC last year are directed to constitute them immediately.

(iv) All inmates who had been released earlier pursuant to the order dated 23.03.2020, should be released again with appropriate conditions.

(v) All the inmates who were granted parole earlier as per the order dated 23.03.2020 should be granted parole again for a period of 90 days.

(vi) All the minutes of the High Powered Committees should be uploaded on their respective websites.

(vii) If inmates do not wish to be released in view of their social background and the fear of becoming victims of COVID, they should be ensured proper medical treatment in the prisons. 

(viii) Steps should be taken for transportation of the released inmates of the prison in view of the lockdowns in various states.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner organization  argued for the de-congestion of prisons in the case with advocates Ritu Kumar, Ajay Verma, Harini Raghupathy and Ankita Wilson in the Hon’ble the Supreme Court of India before the bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Mr. Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Hon'ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant.