Supreme Court orders re-release of all eligible prisoners to avoid COVID-19 spread in prisons
Prisoners across the country who were released last year due to COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently re-imprisoned after COVID-19 pandemic seemingly reduced, would be eligible for immediate release again in view of the surge in COVID cases. On Friday, Supreme Court passed an order to this effect directing High Powered Committees (HPC) constituted by the State Governments/ Union Territories to immediately free such prisoners temporarily. Besides such prisoners, the HPCs should also consider fresh release by adopting the guidelines including standard operating procedure and guidelines laid down by National Legal Services Authority, at the earliest. A special Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant further said that those States which have not constituted High Powered Committees last year should do so immediately.
The Court said, “The High- Powered Committee, in addition to considering fresh release, should forthwith release all the inmates who had been released earlier pursuant to our order March 23, 2020, by imposing appropriate conditions.” It further directed that those inmates who were granted parole, pursuant to the Court’s earlier orders, should be again granted a parole for a period of 90 days in order to tide over the pandemic.
The Court in its order also noted that Some prisoners might not be willing to be released in view of their social background and the fear of becoming victims of the deadly virus. The Court added, “In such extraordinary cases, the authorities are directed to be considerate to the concerns of the inmates. The authorities are directed to ensure that proper medical facilities are provided to all prisoners who are imprisoned.”