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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Delhi HC extends interim bail of over 2,000 undertrial prisoners in wake of Covid-19

Delhi has 16 Jails located at Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini, having cumulative holding capacity of 10,026 prisoners.

Written by Pritam Pal Singh | New Delhi | Updated: May 9, 2020 7:25:54 pm
Following the top court’s directive, the Tihar jail authorities on the HPCs recommendations have released about 3,600 prisoners since March 23 to avoid overcrowding.

The Delhi High Court Saturday ordered extension of interim bails granted to over 2,000 under trial prisoners (UTPs) by another 45 days, keeping in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

A bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh directed, “..it is ordered that the interim bails for a period of 45 days granted to 2,177 UTPs, in view of the recommendations of High Powered Committee (HPC) dated March 28, April 7, 2020 and April 18, 2020…are hereby extended by another period of 45 days from the date of their respective expiry of interim bails on the same terms and conditions.”

The bench further said that the Director General (Prisons) shall ensure that this order is conveyed to all the 2,177 UTPs by telephone and through all other available modes. “Member Secretary, DSLSA shall coordinate with DG (Prisons) in this regard,” it ordered and listed the matter for hearing on June 22.

Concerned over the spread of the virus in prisons, the Supreme Court on March 23 asked state governments to lay down a criteria for the release of convicted and under trial prisoners to prevent over-crowding of prisons in the wake of Covid-19 and had ordered constitution of a High Powered Committee (HPC).

Following the top court’s directive, the Tihar jail authorities on the HPCs recommendations have released about 3,600 prisoners since March 23 to avoid overcrowding. These 2,177 UTPs are part of that benefit.

But in a meeting held via video conferencing on May 5, chaired by Delhi High Court judge – Justice Hima Kohli, the HPC noted that the period of 45 days in respect of some UTPs will expire on May 9 and for others it shall expire  this months and in the first week of June.

In the meeting, attended by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) Member Secretary Kanwal Jeet Arora and other officials, it was also noted that “it may not be possible to predict a definite date for resumption of normal functioning of the court”. Therefore, the HPC was of the opinion that the interim bail so granted to the 2,177 UTPs needs to be extended for a further period of 45 days.

Delhi has 16 Jails located at Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini, having cumulative holding capacity of 10,026 prisoners.

As per the noting, the Committee has been apprised that on the basis of criteria adopted for release, the jail population has come down from 17,552 as on March 25 to 16,179 as on April 7. “On complete implementation of the said criteria, it would further come down to about 15,500…, the same would further come down to 13,500 or less,” the DSLSA has said.

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