Chandigarh, August 11: Because of the spike in COVID-19 cases and ensure the compliance with health protocols in the jails of State, it has been decided to bring the number of prisoners to the 50 percent of the authorized capacity to provide adequate space for keeping the prisoners under quarantine besides ensuring social distancing. Under the decision, 3500 to 4000 prisoners would be released soon whereas earlier, 9500 were released.
- High Powered Committee based on Supreme Court recommendations decides to de-congest jails to 50 percent of authorized capacity
The Jail Minister, S. Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that this exercise is being undertaken considering the relaxations in lockdown restrictions, Increase in the number of new inmates owing to the spiraling of crime rate, regarding which the recommendations were made by the High Powered Committee on the orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
- Includes new sections in recommending parole to prisoners
The minister said that the average admission in Special Jails is around 3000 per month, due to which the present population of jails stands at around 17500, which is approximately 73% of total capacity. 449 prisoners and 77 prison officials have tested COVID positive to date. Most of the above cases have been detected in the last few weeks though 2-levels of testing of all prisoners had started since mid-May.
- To ensure compliance with health protocol in jails, 9500 prisoners already released
Divulging more, the minister said that considering the challenges faced by the Prison Administration related to containment of COVID and related issues, 3rd meeting of the High Powered Committee was held on 31.07.2020 to achieve further decongestion of jails to bring the population down to around 50% of authorized capacity, ensure sufficient social distancing, Provide sufficient space for quarantining those being shifted from Special Jails to the regular jails.
Since 80% of the total population is of Under-trials, the criteria for recommending the release of prisoners was of Under-trials only, and mainly of those accused under NDPS Act, with recovery up to intermediate quantity and not having more than 3 cases. Other sections of IPC which have been included for recommending release on Interim-bail are 379, 420,406, 452, 323, 324, 188, 336, 316, 279, 170, 337, 338, 315 and 498-A. In addition to new criteria, it has been re-iterated that interim-bail of all the prisoners presently out from jail on Interim-bail, may be extended further till the notification of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 is in force. The Committee has also recommended that cases of COVID positive prisoners may be taken up on a priority basis by concerned Judicial officers for interim-bail.
In pursuance of the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, the High Powered Committee (HPC) constituted with Justice R K Jain, Judge, Punjab & Haryana High Court, ACS (Jails) and ADGP(Prisons) had held two (2) detailed meetings on 25-03-2020 and 02-05-2020 which saw decisions being taken to release around 3500-4000 prisoners.