Srinagar, March 25 (GNS): The Jammu and Kashmir government is in the process of ordering constitution of a high-level committee as directed by the Supreme Court to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
“The Home department is the process of issuing the order,” a senior government functionary told GNS. He said while the top court has posted the case after three weeks, the constitution of the committee cannot brooks no delay given the importance of the issue at hand amid growing threat of the coronavirus.
On Monday, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L N Rao and Surya Kant directed that each State or Union Territory shall constitute a High Powered Committee comprising of Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, the Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) and Director General of Prison(s), to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate.
“For instance, the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are undertrial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum,” the apex court had said.
The court made it clear that it was leaving it open for the High Powered Committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be released, depending upon the nature of offence, the number of years to which he or she has been sentenced or the severity of the offence with which he/she is charged with and is facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the Committee may consider appropriate.
“Taking into consideration the possibility of outside transmission, we direct that the physical presence of all the undertrial prisoners before the Courts must be stopped forthwith and recourse to video conferencing must be taken for all purposes,” the court had ordered. Also, the court said, the transfer of prisoners from one prison to another for routine reasons must not be resorted except for decongestion to ensure social distancing and medical assistance to an ill prisoner. “Also, there should not be any delay in shifting sick person to a Nodal Medical Institution in case of any possibility of infection is seen.”
It said that significant measures have been taken by Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Jharkhand, Goa, Kerala, Telangana and UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Chandigarh who have advised the prison authorities that visitors may be allowed to interact with prisoners only through video calling or telephonic call. (GNS)