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Calcutta High Court, a bench headed by Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee constitute a Committee to examine the number of prisoners in correctional homes and jails eligible for parole, bail etc. to reduce overcrowding in jails amidst the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In the continuation of order passed by the Supreme Court requesting all states to consider releasing prisoners facing sentences of up to seven years in order to decongest prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This order is passed in the backdrop of that the High court could not pass any blanket, general direction itself to apply to all Undertrial prisoners or convicts.

In pursuant to that the court also directed that such matters have to be dealt with on case to case basis by the Government and the court concerned with the assistance of the state Government or the state legal services Authority/District Legal Services Authority/Taluk Legal service committee etc.

The Chairman of the West Bengal State Legal Services Committee will nominate the Member Secretary or any other Officer of State Legal Services Authority to represent the Chairman in any meeting of the Committee.

The court has also directed that the Committee should comprise an officer not below the rank of Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary to the Government, and the constitution of a committee by the State Government, with the due involvement of Legal Services authorities.

The court has elucidated that the Government would be open to mould the request for relief of the prisoners in such manner as may be appropriate.

Further adding on, the Court also directed that the report regarding the action on the issue should be emailed by the Government to the Registrar General of the High Court Court by March 31.

In the continuation, order also frames that all precautionary measures will be considered by the committee within the correctional homes and jails, apart from taking adequate steps to enable release of eligible convicts and under trial prisoners.

-India Legal Bureau

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