On 26th September 2020, the High Powered Committee held its 9th meeting through video conferencing under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Rajiv Sharma, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority. This meeting was attended by Shri Vijai Vardhan, IAS, and Additional Chief Secretary to Government, Haryana, Home Department, Shri K. Selvaraj, IPS, and Director General of Prisons, Haryana and Shri. Pramod Goyal, District & Sessions Judge-cum Member Secretary, Haryana State legal Services Authority.
The High Powered Committee (HPC) was constituted at State Level under the directions of the Supreme Court of India issued on 23.03.2020 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1/2020-In RE: Contagion of COVID-19 in Prisons for release of convicts/undertrials on parole/interim bail. The HPC had convened meetings on different occasions for effective implementation of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 23.03.2020. Various guidelines were issued by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings dated 24.03.2020, 30.03.2020., 13.04.2020, 05.05.2020, 22.05.2020, 15.06.2020 and 31.08.2020 to the concerned authorities for taking appropriate steps for the release of prisoners lodged in different jails of Haryana. All these meetings were convened through video conferencing.
Total 3,282 convicts and 1,599 undertrials were released on parole/interim bail from different jails of Haryana since 24.03.2020 to till date to avoid overcrowding in jails during outbreak of COVID-19. Various steps for safety of inmates were also taken such as setting up of special jails for lodging all new prisoners; exclusive jail for COVID patients – jail inmates; expeditious covid test and reports; strict quarantine protocols for inmates and staff; appearance of inmates through video conferencing.
In the meeting, HPC has decided to restore 2,399 prisoners who are concerned in serious offenses, slowly to their respective jails by taking all precautionary measures and safeguards to protect them and others in jail from COVID infection. The release of convicts by HPC was a temporary measure to reduce the risk of infection within the jails and secure the lives of prisoners and staff working therein from this deadly virus.