A high powered committee, headed by a Delhi High Court judge, has directed authorities to take steps like releasing inmates on emergency parole for reducing over-crowding in jails to prevent the spread of coronavirus which has infected 1,071 people in India and claimed 29 lives.
The committee, constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court, deliberated on various means of achieving social distancing and resolved to quarantine fresh inmates who are foreign nationals, isolate those with flu or fever symptoms, conduct regular medical examination of the prisoners, release (those eligible) inmates on emergency parole and to grant special remission of sentence to those who have six months or less jail term left to serve.
The decision by the committee, headed by Delhi High Court judge Justice Hima Kohli, was taken in a meeting held via video conferencing with officials of DG Prisons, Delhi State Legal Services Authority and Home department of the Delhi government.
The meeting was held pursuant to the March 23 direction of the apex court to every state to set up a high powered committee to take measures to reduce population of inmates in the over-crowded jails in the country by determining category of prisoners to be released on parole and interim bail.
In the meeting held by the committee constituted by the Delhi government, it was resolved that the process of granting eight week parole to around 1,500 prisoners, under a newly incorporated provision in the prison rules, would be completed expeditiously.
It was also resolved to relax category of under-trial prisoners (UTPs) who can be released on interim bail to further reduce the jail population, the minutes of the meeting said.
However, UTPs undergoing trial in drug cases where intermediary or large amount of banned substance was recovered, those facing trial for sexual assault of children, rape and acid attacks, foreign nationals, accused in corruption or money laundering cases and those under investigation in terror, anti-national or unlawful activities, would not be considered for any interim bail, the committee resolved.
As personal visits to jails have been cut, the committee resolved that the inmates be allowed to talk to their family through telephone after properly sanitizing the phone.
According to the DG Prisons, in the 16 jails in Delhi which have a total capacity of 10,026 prisoners, there are 17,440 inmates of which 14,355 are UTPs.
During the meeting held on March 28, the prison authority informed the committee that no case of COVID-19 has been detected among the inmates and every nook and corner of the jail campus was being regularly sanitized and cleaned.
Besides that, masks and gloves have been supplied to jail staff and the prisoners and cultural and group activities of inmates have been suspended to avoid mass gathering.