Supreme Court of India urge states and Union-Territories to release prisoners facing sentence of up to Seven Years to Decongest Prisons

The Supreme Court observed that a contract is void if prohibited by a statute under a penalty, even without express declaration that the contract is void

While India is trying to prevent public accumulations the Supreme Court of India on the other hand asks every state and union-territory to release prisoners facing charges for seven years or less to decongest prisons across the country.

Brief Facts

The Indian Government has requested every citizen to stay indoors for the next seven days, but people who are not willing to follow the rules will face consequences of their own. In few states they have already imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. This section says assembly of four or more people in any public area is prohibited. The Government is making sure to entertain emergency reasons only. But people who are not following the prescribed rules will be taken into custody and due to that many jails are congested with the prisoners who were previously imprisoned. In a good faith to save the nation from coronavirus, many citizens are supporting and complying with the rules. The Supreme Court asked all the states and UTs to release the prisoners to help decongest the prisons and help in not spreading of the virus. 

Key Features

1. The Supreme Court of India asked all the states and union-territories to release the prisoners who are facing charges with seven years or less, and based on the offence he/she has committed.

2. Chief Justice of India S. Arvind Bobde has directed all the states to form a High-Powered Committee. The committee will comprise of Principal Secretary of the Home Department, Chairmen of the State Legal Services Authority, and the Director General of the Prisons to asses who shall be released and in making of necessary measures.

3. There were many thoughts against this action taken by the Supreme Court, to them the Apex Court has clarified by saying “Its open for the high powered committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be released… depending upon the nature of the offence, the number of years to which he or she has been sentenced or the severity of the offence with which he/she is charged with or facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the committee may consider appropriate.”[i]

4. The Bench has also added by saying “For instance, the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are undertrial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum.”[ii]

5. Supreme Courts believes that overcrowding of the prison is of a very serious concern and it shall not be ignored. All the measures to keep the prison sanitised and keep the prisoners shall be regular and this responsibility shall be taken by the respected authorities.

6. The undertrials shall not be called to the court, but use of video conference shall be used by the courts to continue the court proceedings. And only emergency cases will be entertained by the courts in this vulnerable situation.

7. A monitoring team will be appointed to monitor the health of prisoners and duties of prison authorities.

8. The Supreme Court also advises the authorities that there shall be no delay in shifting a sick person from the jail to the nodal medical institution; the authorities shall make sure to have all resources in reach to do so.


With the tremendous efforts put by the Central Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the number of positive cases still go up. Currently India is with 467 positive cases[iii] affected with coronavirus. The citizens should understand that it’s not just the duty of the Government but people should help comply with the rules imposed. As advised the people should stay indoors unless there’s an emergency, but many people are seen not following these as police officers take them into custody there’s overcrowding of the prisons across the country. In accordance to prevent the virus from spreading the Supreme Court of India has asked the state governments to release the prisoners. Also it has taken an initiative to appoint a High-Powered Committee to asses who all shall be released and measure the gravity of their cases. This would in turn help the prisons from getting overcrowded and also prevent from any virus to spread across. Overcrowded prisons are analysed and people who deserve a bail are given and others are transferred to prisons with minimum population.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

End Notes

[i] Shruti Mahajan, Coronavirus: Consider bail for all undertrials facing up to 7 years in jail to decongest prisons, Supreme Court to states Bar and Bench – Indian Legal news, (last visited Mar 23, 2020).

[ii] Shruti Mahajan, Coronavirus: Consider bail for all undertrials facing up to 7 years in jail to decongest prisons, Supreme Court to states Bar and Bench – Indian Legal news, (last visited Mar 23, 2020).

[iii] Coronavirus updates: Coronavirus India updates, Coronavirus latest update, The Economic Times, (last visited Mar 23, 2020).