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Covid parole: Supreme Court to hear Maharashtra convicts’ plea on June 22

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Some 49 murder convicts out on Covid-19 parole have moved the Supreme Court against returning to their prisons in view of the rising incidence of Covid-19 in Maharashtra. The Apex Court will hear the matter on Wednesday, June 22.

On Monday, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves argued before the bench of Justices C.T. Ravikumar and Sudhanshu Dhulia that in the last 10 days, Maharashtra had reported 40,000 new Covid-19 cases.

Justice Ravikumar said the cases all over India is not at 40,000. The judge said the case, which is before the Chief Justice of India Justice N.V. Ramana, will be heard on Wednesday.

In May, a group of prisoners, who were released on emergency Covid-19 parole, had challenged the temporary parole given by the Bombay High Court to surrender within 15 days. The petition was heard by the HC vacation bench of Justices Nitin Sambre and A.L. Pansare.

The petition filed by the prisoners argued that the state has ignored the overcrowding of jails and specific orders of the Supreme Court, which, in July 2021, directed that prisoners should not be asked to return to prisons till further orders.

The prisoners demanded at least 45 days, and not 15, to at least prepare for surrender. They also argued that they would face losses in whatever work they started after their temporary parole.

On March 23, 2020, the Apex Court had taken suo motu cognizance of overcrowding in prisons and ordered the states to set up a High-Powered Committee (HPC) to identify and release prisoners to restrain the spread of Covid-19 in the prisons.

On May 8, 2020, the Maharashtra government issued a notification and directed that convict prisoners whose maximum sentence is above seven years can be considered for emergency parole on application.

In April, the Supreme Court also directed prisoners in Kerala to report back to jails within two weeks. A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and P.S. Narasimha said near-normalcy had returned in India as daily activities remain unabated.

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