Ensure measures to prevent Coronavirus spread: HC to jail authorities

Srinagar

Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday directed the jail authorities to ensure all preventive measures against the spreading of Corona Virus are taken in the area of lodgement.

A bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey passed the directions in at least three bail applications. “Pending decision in the application, the Jail Authorities shall ensure that all preventive measures for spreading of Corona Virus in the area of lodgment is taken,” the court said as per the orders;.

“They shall also ensure strict adherence to the guidelines issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs and provide the detenues all the required material for ensuring their safety,” the court added.

Many people include those detained under PSA have been released recently to decongest jails across Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 30, the government had constituted a high-powered committee, in consonance with the directions by the Supreme Court, to decide about the temporary release of convicts and under-trails to decongest jails across J&K.

A bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices L N Rao and Surya Kant had directed each State or Union Territory shall constitute a High Powered Committee comprising of Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, the Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) and Director General of Prison(s), to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate.

“For instance, the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are undertrial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum,” the apex court had said.

The court made it clear that it was leaving it open for the High Powered Committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be released, depending upon the nature of offence, the number of years to which he or she has been sentenced or the severity of the offence with which he/she is charged with and is facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the Committee may consider appropriate.

“Taking into consideration the possibility of outside transmission, we direct that the physical presence of all the undertrial prisoners before the Courts must be stopped forthwith and recourse to video conferencing must be taken for all purposes,” the court had ordered. Also, the court said, the transfer of prisoners from one prison to another for routine reasons must not be resorted except for decongestion to ensure social distancing and medical assistance to an ill prisoner. “Also, there should not be any delay in shifting sick person to a Nodal Medical Institution in case of any possibility of infection is seen.”

It said that significant measures have been taken by Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Jharkhand, Goa, Kerala, Telangana and UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Chandigarh who have advised the prison authorities that visitors may be allowed to interact with prisoners only through video calling or telephonic call. (GNS)

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