A high powered committee constituted to de-congest jails to prevent spread of Covid-19 has said there is a need to release prisoners on interim bail for 90 days or eight weeks parole in view of the ”alarming” and ”threatening” situation of the pandemic in the national capital. The committee, headed by Justice Vipin Sanghi, observed that the entire country was ”engulfed” in the second wave of COVID-19, which according to the medical and expert opinion is more virulent and fatal in comparison to the last year’s strain and in a matter of few weeks has left everyone ”gasping for air”.
“It has led everyone to struggle to breathe or with asphyxia, which is the most terrifying human experience. Breathing fresh air which one takes for granted and used to do more than a dozen times every minute, in the present circumstances has turned into an ordeal. Right to Life under Article 21 is the most precious Fundamental Right of every citizen of India. It unconditionally embraces even an under-trial/convict walled off from the society,” the committee said while laying down the criteria for release of around 4,000 under-trial prisoners (UTPs) on interim bail for 90 days.
The committee, which has been constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court, has also said that since its last meeting in February this year, the situation “has taken a 360 degree turn and is becoming alarming with each day.”
“Accordingly, there is an imminent and urgent need to take affirmative and effective steps to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 inside jails and for ensuring social distancing inside prisons by identifying and determining the class/categories of prisoners who can once again be released on interim bails/paroles,” it has said. It has further said that according to statistical data of COVID-19 cases in the national capital the situation was ”not only alarming but threatening” as not only the positivity rate but the death rate in COVID-19 positive cases was also ”spiking sharply”. The committee has said that in such a situation, which was much more dangerous than last year, and with the prisons in Delhi holding almost double their capacity of prisoners, it has not only stressed the jail administration but has also “jeopardised the necessity of observing social distancing, which is the need of the hour to prevent the spread of virus amongst the inmates.”
The committee has laid down 11 categories of UTPs like those in civil imprisonment, senior citizens who are facing trial for offences with a max punishment of 10 years in jail, those who are suffering other serious illnesses and are facing trial for offences with punishment ranging from 10 years to life, who would be eligible for grant of 90 days interim bail on furnishing of a personal bond. With regard to release of convicts on parole, Director General of Prisons told the committee that a letter was sent to the Delhi government on April 26 to grant emergency parole of 8 weeks to those prisoners who surrendered after expiry of emergency parole granted to them last time during the first wave of the pandemic, The committee then recommended grant of emergency parole to eligible convicts and the Principal Secretary (Home), Govt. of NCT of Delhi assured the panel that necessary efforts shall be taken to get the needful done.