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Contempt Petition Against Maha Govt For Wilful Disregard Of SC Order On COVID19 In Prisons

A Contempt petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against Maharashtra Government for deliberate and wilful disobedience of Supreme court order/ judgement passed on 23rd March, 2020 in Suo Motu writ petition in reference with contagion of COVID19 virus in prisons of Maharashtra.

A Writ petition has been filed by the prisoners currently incarcerated at Central Jail and Osmanabad District Jail in Maharashtra as they are living in the most abject and inhumane conditions whereas their plight is pitiable, whereas the respondents are the Additional Chief Secretaries of Home department in Maharashtra State Government along with Director General of Prisons.

Its stated in the petition that the Supreme court in order to ensure that the spread of COVID19 is controlled in the prisons, directed each State/UT to constitute a High Power Committee to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as can be thought appropriate.

Thereafter, the High Power Committee issued order on 25thMarch, 2020 in which it was mentioned that undertrial prisoners for such offences for which maximum punishment is 7 years or less be favourably considered for release on interim bail and convicted prisoners whose maximum punishment is 7 years or less will be favourable considered for release on emergency parole and the order also mentioned that the directions so made will not be applicable to undertrial prisoners booked for serious economic offences / bank scams and offences under Special Acts (other then IPC) like MCOC, PMLA, MPID, NDPS, UAPA etc.

Its further stated in the petition that after the decision of High-Power Committee, Maharashtra Home Ministry had announced that 11,000 prisoners were released on emergency parole. After which writ petition was filed by two persons before the Bombay High Court challenging the exclusion in the directions of High Power Committee with regards to “offences punishable under Special Acts” on grounds of arbitrary classification and contempt of Supreme court directions which further taken as Suo motu petition by the Bombay High Court and meanwhile the High Court also took cognizance of letter written by a senior advocate regarding release of the prisoners.

The petitioner stated that despite an elapse of more than one and half months from the decision of the High-Power Committee and expressing a statement before the Bombay High Court as well as numerous representations to the High Power Committee, the state of Maharashtra has not released a single prisoner till date by granting emergency parole.

As said by the petitioner, that the Supreme Court while making directions to release the prisoners did not make any distinction between the offences punishable under IPC and the economic offences or the offences punishable under the Special Acts.

It was said in the petition that the decision of High Power Committee that the directions issued by the Supreme Court will not apply to prisoners who are accused of economic offences and the offences punishable under the Special Acts is in defiance of the order on 23rd March, 2020 passed by the Supreme court in Suo Motu Writ petition.

Petitioners also mentioned in the petition that all the 9 Central Prisons in Maharashtra are overcrowded and therefore it is not possible to maintain social distancing. The central jails are so congested that the distance between the sleeping place between 2 prisoners is hardly a foot. 

Therefore, the petitioners prayed for initiating proceeding for contempt of court against official of Maharashtra Governmentfor deliberate and wilful disobedience of Judgements/order of Supreme court regarding release of prisoners in reference with contagion of COVID19 virus in prisons.

-India Legal Bureau

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