The Delhi High Court on Monday extended the interim bail of 2,961 undertrial prisoners by 45 days to de-congest jails during the coronavirus pandemic. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh passed the order in view of a high-power committee's recommendation that it would be dangerous to send the prisoners back to jail as the risk still remains high.
The court said the interim bail of these undertrials is extended by 45 days from the date of expiry of the relief on the same terms and conditions and listed the matter for further hearing on August 4.
The committee, headed by Justice Hima Kohli, in its June 20 meeting said since there was no certainty when the threat of pandemic shall be over and requirement of social distancing no longer necessary, the interim bail of under-trial prisoners (UTPs) needs to be extended for a further period of 45 days from the date their respective interim bail is expiring.
During the hearing, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain, appearing for the prison authorities, said they have no objection to the extension of bail.
"Accordingly, it is ordered that the interim bails for a period of 45 days granted to 2,961 UTPs, in view of the recommendations of HPC...are hereby extended by another period of 45 days from the date of their respective expiry of interim bails on the same terms and conditions," the bench said.
It also directed the Director General (Prisons) to ensure that the order was conveyed to all 2,961 under-trial prisoners (UTPs) by telephone and other available modes.
During the hearing, Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) member secretary Kanwal Jeet Arora submitted that the situation was the same and it was not possible to take the undertrials back in jail at this time and urged the court to further extend the relief period.
Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said before the process of de-congesting jails began, there were 18,000 inmates in jail against the holding capacity of 10,000.
After decongestion, though the jails population is still more than the holding capacity but it has reduced to 13,677 which is a great relief.
The committee, which was formed on the order of the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines to decongest jails and prevent spread of the coronavirus, was also of the view that moving a separate application on behalf of each of the 2,961 UTPs would be "cumbersome" and lead to wastage of judicial time.
Therefore, it had recommended that the high court be requested to pass a judicial order to extend the interim bail of the prisoners by 45 days.
The matter was placed before Chief Justice D N Patel, who on May 7 issued verbal directions to set up the bench on Saturday, May 9.