As part of its drive to decongest jails in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir has released over 100 prisoners from different jails across the Union Territory.
Pointing out that a total of 108 prisoners have so far been released, official sources said that except for one convict, who has been released on parole in Pulwama district, all the others were under trials and were released on interim bail.
The highest number of undertrials — 40 — were released in Jammu district, followed by Srinagar and Ganderbal (10 each), Samba and Kupwara (seven each), Ananatnag (six), Pulwama and Budgam (five), Rajouri and Udhampur (four each), Baramulla, Poonch, Bhaderwah and Ramban (two each), besides Reasi (one).
Director General of Police (Prisons) V K Singh said that the government has also decided to release 19 convicts on parole. Pointing out that more releases will follow, he said the under trials released so far include 22 people detained under the stringent Public Safety Act.
There are nearly 3,000 prisoners lodged in different jails across the UT. Of them, nearly 1,000 are facing trial on charges of serious crimes such as murder, another 850 are facing trial under provisions of the Narcotics and Drugs (Prevention) Substance Act, and nearly 400 are facing charges of rape. Apart from these, there are another nearly 300 prisoners facing trial on charges of militancy-related cases.
The move to release the prisoners comes following the recommendations of a high-powered committee, led by Justice Rajesh Bindal of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, asking the government to release those prisoners who have been convicted and have spent more than 10 years in jail on a special eight-week parole in view of the outbreak situation.
For female convicts, the eligibility criteria was fixed at eight years in jail. The parole for all convicts is extendable to another eight weeks if the nationwide lockdown continues.
Those excluded from the release decision are prisoners facing charges or convicted of militancy-related cases, larg-scale narcotics cases, POCSO and offences against women cases and those involved in cases related to foreign nationals.
The committee also recommended the release of all those who have been sentenced to three years imprisonment by a lower court and their revision petition is pending before the High Court, as well as those who have completed their prison sentence but are still in prison due to non-payment of fines. It further recommended that matters pertaining to prisoners of an advanced age and those suffering from any illness may be examined on a case-to-case basis.
The panel also recommended a 60-day parole for undertrials who are facing cases in which the maximum prison sentence in seven years, with or without fine. This interim bail is extendable for another 60 days in case the circumstances demand, it recommended, adding that these detainees shall appear before the magistrate concerned for appropriate orders when the lockdown ends.
Constituted by the UT Government on directions of Supreme Court to de-congest jails in view of the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country, the high powered committee had members in Principal Secretary Home Shaleen Kabra and Director General of Police (Prisons) V K Singh.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines