COVID-29 crisis : Two prisoners denied temporary bail move HC

Two undertrials lodged at Maharashtra’s Aurangabad Central Jail have approached the Bombay High Court against a high-powered committee’s decision that prisoners booked under special Acts will not be entitled to temporary bail in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

The undertrials – Nitin Shelke and Madhukar Suryawanshi – were not granted temporary bail by the prison authorities as they are booked under the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act.

The petition, submitted before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, challenged the March 25 decision of a high-powered committee which said prisoners prosecuted under special Acts would not be granted bail.

A single bench of Justice R G Avachat last week directed the state prisons department and the high-powered committee to respond to the petition by April 8.

The petitioners sought a direction to the committee and jail authorities that they be granted temporary bail.

On March 23, the Supreme Court in a suo moto (on its own) petition directed for a high-powered committee to be set up to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or interim bail to reduce crowding in jails in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

It said the parameters would be nature of offence, sentence awarded to the convict and severity of the offence.

The two undertrials in their petition said, The high-powered committee issued impugned decision with a blanket disqualification against persons prosecuted for offences under Special Acts (other than IPC) like MCOCA, PMLA, MPID, NDPS and UAPA on the ground that there are higher restrictions on grant of bail in these Acts.”

It said the committee, instead of issuing a blanket disqualification order, should have given weightage to prisoners like women or aged persons or those suffering from other ailments like diabetes, blood pressure and others.

“These persons are more vulnerable to be infected, the plea said.

As per the petition, out of 1,828 prisoners in the Aurangabad Central Jail, also known as the Harsul Jail, only 74 were granted temporary bail.

The two petitioners were not given bail as they were accused of offences punishable under the MPID Act.

Their lawyer Pradnya Talekar argued that maintaining social distancing was an impossible condition in prisons, which are over-crowded.

Further, the state is not in a position to provide medical facilities in case the prison inmates contract the viral infection.

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