In reference to its order directing all the States/ UTs to constitute High Powered Committees to determine and release a certain class of prisoners on interim bail so as to decongest prisons amid the impending threat of COVId-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday issues certain supplementary measures to be observed by the state and prison authorities, so that the release of prisoners itself does not lead to spread of COVID-19, Livelaw.in reported.
A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde has directed no prisoner shall be released if he/she has suffered from coronavirus disease in communicable form hereafter. For this purpose, appropriate tests will be carried out.
“If it is found that a prisoner who has been released is suffering from coronavirus after the release, necessary steps will be taken by the concerned authority by placing him/her inappropriate quarantine facility,” Livelaw.in reported.
“Transportation shall be done in full compliance of the Rules and Norms of social distancing. For instance, no transportation shall be allowed in excess of half or one-fourth capacity of the bus as may be found appropriate to ensure that the passengers who have been found to be free of coronavirus disease are at a distance from each other.”
The order dated 23.03.2020 shall be applicable to correctional homes, detention centres and protection homes.
The directions have been issued in the face of submissions made by Attorney General KK Venugopal that the release and transportation of the prisoners may itself result in the transmission of coronavirus from prisons or detention centres to locations where the released prisoners have to reach.
The bench, also comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar has also made it clear that its order for the release of prisoners is not mandatory and every state must take a decision on the basis of prison conditions.
“We make it clear that we have not directed the States/ Union Territories to compulsorily release the prisoners from their respective prisons. The purpose of our aforesaid order was to ensure the States/Union Territories to assess the situation in their prisons having regard to the outbreak of the present pandemic in the country and release certain prisoners and for that purpose to determine the category of prisoners to be released,” the order states.
Notably, the State of Bihar has not found it appropriate to release the prisoners for the complete absence of any patient suffering from coronavirus within the prisons and also for the reason that the prisons are not overcrowded, reported Livelaw.in.