‘National Forum on Prison Reforms’ through its Convenor Ajay Verma filed an application for intervention in Re: Contagion of COVID 19 Virus in Prisons seeking directions for safe passage of released prisoners and related directions, in view of the impending release of a large number of jail inmates around the country due to COVID-19 pandemic and the 21-Day National Lockdown.
On 23.03.2020, Supreme Court has taken a suo moto cognizance for release of prisoners both convicted and under trials so as to prevent the outbreak of corona virus among prisoners and to decongest the prisons. The Apex Court has ordered constitution of High Powered Committees (HPCs) and Under Trial Release Committees (UTRCs) at State and UT level which shall screen the list of potential prisoners for early release on parole till the time the outbreak subsists.
The Intervenor/Applicant is the convenor of ‘National Forum on Prison Reforms’ which is non registered forum of six organisation namely, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), International Bridges to Justice India (IBJ India), Lawyers for Human Right International (LFHRI), Multiple Action Research Group (MARG) which have agreed to collectively on prison reforms in the country.
Intervenor/Applicant said, “the Central Government has issued orders imposing an extended nationwide lockdown period of 21 days w.e.f. midnight of 24.3.2020. As a result, public transportation, personal mobility and means of livelihood are severely curtailed throughout the country. As such, prisoners being released from custody would be hard pressed to deal with the situation on their release, and severely constrained from reaching their homes or other place of shelter and from earning for their subsistence.”
Intervenor/Applicant through his application seeks various directions including, to pass an order directing all the High Courts and its subordinate court to consider hearing of cases on emergent/ Medical Grounds which are not falling in the categories as decided by HPC/URTC of UT and States as advised in the order dated 23.03.2020. And, to release convicts who have completed their sentence or nearing completion or are elderly or infirm prisoners.
Further, he seeks directions to the state and union territories to ensure adequate medical facilities, doctors with proper facilities and hygienic conditions as enumerated by the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation. The prisoners who are released must be provided with safe transit facilities, travel allowances, subsistence allowance, and medical and ration kits and also be given an option to stay in temporary shelters for a period of lockdown.
–India Legal Bureau