SC Commands States and UTs for safe transit of prisoners released3 min read

BY : ROHIT SARKAR

BACKGROUND:

The spreading of covid-19 in India has increased even more, currently 5,865 people are confirmed to be positive and 169 people have died due to the disease. On the recovery side, India has recovered 478 people who were tested positive for covid-19. Places such as prison cells have a high rate of spreading of diseases and thus they should be maintained properly. Jails such as the Tihar Jail in New Delhi, houses the country’s largest prison.

Previously, on March 16th, the Supreme Court noted a “High risk of transmission of Covid-19 through prison inmates”. Every day the jail experiences hundreds of visitors such as prison staff, families of prisoners and lawyers for the inmates, hence transmission rate is at a very high rate.

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CURRENT ISSUE:

The SC has ordered all state level and Union Territories to set up high level panels which would discuss and consider the release of all inmates who have been jailed for up to seven years on parole to decrease the congestion of prisoners inside the jails, in an attempt to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The panels of States and Union Territories took heed to the possibility of outside transmission, the bench directed that physical presence of under trial prisoners inside the jails should be stopped immediately and compromise to videoconferencing for all purposes. The SC stated that transfer of prisoners from one prison to another should be only allowed for decongestion reasons and banned for any other reasons. The Court took this decision in order to ensure social distancing and medical assistance to ill prisoners.

The Tihar Jail on March 23, 2020 declared that they are going to release on parole or interim bail around 3000 inmates who are not “hardened criminals”, other similar prisons in the country may follow, having been directed by the Supreme Court to determine which types of prisoners should be released to control the spread of covid-19.

Coronavirus is making prison life very dangerous. Twenty prisoners in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat jail have been quarantined for showing symptoms of coronavirus. Since India is a country with many convicts and less jails, overcrowding has become a severe issue in States and Union Territories and thus the Apex Court has ordered all the State and UTs jails to release specific prisoners to decongest the jail and to maintain the spread of covid-19.

CONCLUSION:

The global pandemic which has claimed 169 lives and infected 5865 in India (as of 9th April, 2020), poses a grave challenge to India’s Prison that houses more than 450,000 prisoners. This is 17.6% more than their authorized capacity, according to the Prisoners Statistics of India 2018, released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Prison overcrowding has become very severe in India, especially in states such as Uttar Pradesh, where the number of prisoners exceed jail capacity by 76.4%. Thus decisions to transferring the prisoners is a good idea, as it will decrease the spreading. In response to the Apex Court, Rajasthan and Jharkhand stated that they had tried to decongest their respective prisons by transferring prisoners to other, less congested prisons.

Many states are trying their best to take care of their prisoners and to provide support in the long battle to cure this pandemic.

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