The Bombay High Court refused Thursday to grant temporary bail to a murder accused, who sought to be released from Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai in view of the COVID-19 pandemic while observing that the applicant was “better off in the jail”. The Supreme Court had earlier directed that state jails should be decongested in view of the disease’s outbreak.
A bench of justice Gautam S Patel passed the order while hearing a bail plea of Jitendra Mishra, a Ghatkopar resident, who has been lodged in the jail for the last 18 months.
Mishra, a murder accused under section 302 of the IPC and other penal provisions, in his plea stated that he should be released as two other inmates of Taloja jail had been infected with the coronavirus. Advocates Aashish Shukla and Shailendra Singh, appearing for Mishra, also informed the court that the immediate release was sought on the top court’s directions and not on merit.
Advocate Singh submitted that Mishra had been in Taloja Jail for 18 months and after a prisoner was released based on SC guidelines, Mishra’s family came to know that there were allegedly two COVID-19 positive cases in the jail. For the “safety” and “well-being” of the petitioner, temporary bail be granted, the lawyer argued.
Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare, opposed the plea and denied claims that any jail inmate had been infected inside Taloja jail. He said that the jail authorities had not conveyed the same, hence the plea should be dismissed.
After hearing submissions through video-conference, justice Patel said, “You (bail applicant) have no idea what is happening in the city, where entire areas have been sealed to contain the spread of the virus,” Justice Patel was referring to G-south ward and Worli Naka area that had been sealed by the civic body after a large number of coronavirus cases were detected. “You are safer in the jails than in your home in Ghatkopar. The jails are better equipped to contain the spread of the virus and there is no point in coming out on bail and becoming more susceptible to the virus or spreading it in the family,” Justice Patel said.
The high court said it was aware of the Supreme Court direction to release prisoners but also needed to strike a balance considering the situation in the city. “It does not warrant the release of the applicant. Therefore, I cannot let the man leave Taloja jail to reach Ghatkopar and risk getting infected with the disease and endanger others,” Justice Patel said.
The court, however, said the further hearing could take place once the regular court resumes after the lockdown was lifted.
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