The Maharashtra government has decided to release on temporary parole 17,000 of the total 35,000 inmates lodged across jails in the state to contain the spread of the COVID-19, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Tuesday.
Of these, 5,000 undertrial inmates have already been released.
The governments decision comes close on the heels of 185 inmates at the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai contracting the viral disease, Deshmukh said.
Earlier, a high-powered committee appointed by the Maharashtra government decided to temporarily release around 50 per cent of the total prisoners to decongest jails across the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a video message on Twitter, Deshmukh said, 185 inmates at the Arthur Road Jail contracted COVID-19. They are being treated at present.
The state government has now decided to release on temporary parole 17,000 of the 35,000 inmates in jails across Maharashtra to prevent spread of the disease in other jails.
He said that 5,000 undertrial inmates have already been released.
Deshmukh said 3,000 and 9,000 inmates - imprisoned for up to seven years and above, respectively, will also be released.
He, however, clarified that those convicted in serious cases like that of rape, big financial and bank scams and under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), among others, will not be released.
The minister reiterated that the government has already "locked down" eight prisons where no entry or exit is being allowed till the coronavirus-induced curbs are in force.
Meanwhile, the government-appointed committee took the decision to temporarily release prisoners to decongest jails across the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The panel, while taking the decision on Monday, said prisoners convicted or booked on serious charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and stringent law provisions like the MCOCA, UAPA and PMLA will not be released on temporary bail or parole.
The committee, comprising Bombay High Court judge Justice AA Sayed, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sanjay Chahande and Maharashtra Director General Prisons SN Pandey, was set up after the Supreme Court in March called for decongestion of prisons across the country due to the outbreak
The panel rejected a representation filed by advocate SB Talekar, claiming that the decision to not release prisoners charged or convicted under the special Acts was discriminatory and arbitrary.
It noted that the Supreme Court had left it to the absolute discretion of the committee to determine which class/category of prisoners can be released on temporary bail or parole, depending not only upon the severity of the offence but also the nature of the offence.
The committee said prisoners who are not entitled to temporary bail or parole will have to seek regular bail from the courts concerned.