The Delhi High Court has directed 3,499 undertrial prisoners, who were granted interim bails to de-congest jails here amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to surrender on expiry of their period. The decision of the court was based on the recommendation of the high powered committee (HPC) constituted on the direction of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh said it was "not inclined" to further extend the period of interim bail granted to these undertrial prisoners (UTP) under various criteria laid down by the HPC in its several meetings.
"It is therefore directed that all the 3,499 UTPs granted interim bails under the various criteria laid down by the HPC, who have not obtained regular bails from their court concerned, or any other superior court to its court concerned, shall surrender before the jail superintendent (S) upon the expiry of the period of their interim bail commencing from March 7," the bench said in its order passed on March 3 and made available on Saturday.
It added that as the 3,499 UTPs were admitted to interim bails on different dates, so the period of their interim bails will expire with efflux of time on different dates and there was no requirement to fix any specific date for their surrender. The high court while refusing to extend the interim bails considered the observations and recommendations made by the committee, the improved situation of COVID-19 in Delhi-NCR and the resolution passed by the HPC on February 17 of not recommending further extension of interim bails to 3,499 UTPs.
It also took into consideration the March 1 directions of the Supreme Court whereby 2,318 prisoners granted interim bails by trial courts and 356 prisoners granted bail by the high court have been asked to surrender within 15 days. The high court, which disposed of the petition relating to extension of interim bails, made it clear that all these UTPs may invoke the jurisdiction of the court concerned for grant of regular bail and the courts shall consider it on merits.
It also directed the director general (prisons) to ensure that this order is conveyed to all the 3,499 UTPs by telephone and all other available modes.