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Tihar looks for 3,468 inmates gone ‘missing’ while on Covid parole

Most of the convicts and undertrial prisoners suffering illnesses such as HIV, cancer, kidney dysfunction requiring dialysis, Hepatitis B or C, asthma and TB were released last year to decongest the prison as Covid cases rose.

Written by Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi |
Updated: April 15, 2021 12:24:09 pm
The inmates were expected to return by the end of March. (File Photo)

Of the 6,740 prisoners at Tihar Jail who were released on parole last year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, 3,468 have gone “missing”. Jail authorities have now approached the Delhi Police to help trace them.

Most of the convicts and undertrial prisoners suffering illnesses such as HIV, cancer, kidney dysfunction requiring dialysis, Hepatitis B or C, asthma and TB were released last year to decongest the prison as Covid cases rose. Tihar, with a cumulative capacity of holding 10,026 inmates, is one of the largest prison complexes in South Asia.

Sources said that of those released, 1,184 were convicted inmates let out of Delhi’s three jails, at Tihar, Mandoli, Rohini. “They were initially released for eight weeks, which was later extended from time to time. They were finally supposed to surrender between February 7 and March 6. But out of 1,184, 112 are missing. When jail officials approached their family members, they were told that they were not present at their homes,” jail sources said.

Of the undertrial prisoners, only around 2,200 of the 5,556 released on interim bail have returned. “The process to surrender started on March 6 this year and they were asked to surrender by the end of March,” sources in Tihar jail said.

All states had constituted high-powered committees to lay down criteria for the release of convicted and undertrial prisoners to decongest jails following a Supreme Court suggestion in March last year. Following this, states released inmates on bail for 30-60 days. For Delhi, the committee was headed by Delhi High Court judge Justice Hima Kohli. It also included then Delhi government Principal Secretary (Home)/Additional Chief Secretary Satya Gopal and Tihar Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel.

Asked about the “missing” prisoners, DG Goel said, “We have shared a list of UTPs (undertrial prisoners) and convicts who have not surrendered with the Delhi Police. Some UTPs are still surrendering and some might have obtained regular bails from courts, which is being ascertained.”

Data provided by the Tihar jail authorities show that as of Wednesday, the prison had 67 active cases among jail inmates and 11 among jail staff, including a jail superintendent and two prison doctors. “Currently there are around 20,000 prisoners in Tihar. Till date, 174 inmates and 300 staff have tested positive. Last week, the Tihar jail administration decided to cancel meetings between prisoners and their family members till further orders, following the surge of Covid-19 cases in Delhi,” an official said.

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