On Tuesday, Delhi high court said that, it intends to bring the blanket order of extending the interim bail and emergency parole of prisoners in the national capital to an end after the Delhi government informed the court that only three inmates are infected by Covid-19 and are undergoing treatment in hospitals.
A three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel, Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh, said that the blanket order was passed because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Further, the Delhi government through advocate Rahul Mehra, a standing counsel for criminal cases, told the HC that a total of 5,581 inmates were released on interim bail and emergency parole. Though the total capacity of jails in the national capital is 10,000 around 16,000 inmates were lodged because of an acute space crunch. The Delhi government also told the Court that, 216 jail employees had tested Covid-19 positive, of which 206 had recovered from their viral infection.
Earlier in March, prisoners in Delhi were released on interim bail and emergency parole as one of the first measures to decongest jails and prevent the spread of the contagion.
The Director-General of Delhi Tihar Prison, Mr. Sandeep Goel, informed the HC that, some of the employees live in jail quarters and others don’t commute to work from outside.
“At present, only three inmates are undergoing treatment at hospitals after they had tested Covid-19 positive. The contagion was contained in jails because adequate measures were undertaken by the authorities concerned,” Goel said.
Amit Prasad, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP), told the HC that 25 prisoners was arrested in different cases of north-east Delhi riots, which had erupted in the end of February, were out on interim bail and emergency parole because of the blanket order.
CJ Patel said that the HC intended to end the blanket order and was not concerned with the jails lodging capacity. He cited that the order was passed because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“While passing the order, it was not taken into consideration the capacity of the jails. We had only passed the order due to the outbreak of Covid-19,” CJ Patel said.
Advocate Mehra opposed the move and stated that it would be against the spirit of the orders passed by the Supreme Court (SC) for decongestion of jails and correctional homes. Further, he pointed out that Delhi was still in the grip of Covid-19 pandemic and even a panel of the Delhi government, constituted following the apex court orders to decongest the jails, had also passed guidelines to release the prisoners on interim bails or emergency paroles.
However, the High Court bench maintained that “Covid-19 order should end now and it should be back to the situation as it was earlier”. Prisoners would be allowed whatever remedies are available to them under law, they added.
Justice Singh suggested during the hearing that the order be modified for those accused of heinous crimes. He cited that several inmates had misused the order in their bid to extend interim bail and emergency parole on multiple occasions.
Moreover, CJ Patel weighed in and pointed out that the HC was not concerned about the nature of the crime concerned. He said he would pass the order later on Tuesday afternoon following deliberations with his other two member judges of the bench.