NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the release of prisoners/detenues in detention centers in Assam who have been in detention for more than 2 years in order to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus.
The order was passed while hearing a bunch of petitions tagged under the name “suo motu writ petition in re: contagion of covid 19 virus in prisons” which sought directions for containment of covid-19 virus and temporary release of prisons amid the rising cases of covid-19.
Chief Justice SA Bobde presiding over a three judge bench while passing the order also reduced stringent condition of release to two bonds of five thousand rupees with two sureties from earlier bond of sum of rupees one lakh as stipulated in a previous order of 10 May, 2019. The top court had allowed conditional release in May 2019 of the detainees who had sent more than three years at these centres.
The bench also comprising of Justices L Nageshwar Rao and Mohan M Shantanagoudar observed in their order that in view of the present circumstances prevailing in the country and with respect to the court’s earlier order of allowing the release of detention prisoners who had been detained for three years, the court sees no reason as to why the period should be reduced from three years to two years now.
In another related order, the court issued a slew of directions with respect to prisoners being released. No prisoner to be released if found suffering from coronavirus disease and if any released prisoner is found to be suffering from coronavirus than appropriate quarantine facility to be provided. Lastly, the transportation of prisoners is to be done in full compliance of rules and norms of social distancing.
Last month a representation was made by an organization called Justice and Liberty Initiative to the Chief Justice of India, seeking the release of ‘declared foreigners’ from the detention centre in Assam. The organization also sought directions for the state government to not to arrest any more people until the situation created due to rising cases of Covid-19 virus is under control.
Another petition had also been filed by Raju Bala Das who is himself a detainee and has been living in the detention center for past two years. He sought the release on the ground that the detention centers are overcrowded and there is high threat of infection amidst the rising cases of Covid-19.
The Top court bench on 23 March had directed each State/Union Territory to constitute a High Powered Committee comprising of Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, the Principal Secretary, Director General of Prison “to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate.” This order had been passed to curtail the spread of Covid-19 in prisons which are already over crowded.