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A bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, while hearing a suo motu case of avoiding overcrowding in prisons to prevent spread of COVID-19, directed all the states and UT’s to constitute a High Powered Committee to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for an appropriate period.

The High Powered Committee shall comprises of Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, the Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) and  Director General of Prison(s).

The bench further said “we leave it open for the High Powered  Committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be  released as aforesaid, 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.”

In order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, the bench further directed the States and UT’s to stop the physical presence of all the undertrial prisoners before the Courts and suggested that instead recourse to video conferencing must be taken for all purposes.

Moreover the  bench has also directed that no prisoner should be transferred from one prison to another except for the purpose of decongestion. The bench further said that  “there should not be any delay in shifting sick person to a Nodal Medical Institution in case of any possibility of infection is seen.”

The Apex Court had last week taken suo motu cognizance of the need to take preventive steps to prevent contagious spread of COVID-19 virus in prisons of India and had called upon the Chief Secretaries, Home secretaries , Director Generals of all prisons and the Union government to explain the steps being taken by them to deal with the health crisis,

-Shaheen Parween 

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