Decided on April 13,2020

In Re : Contagion Of Covid 19 Virus In Prisons Appellant
STATE Respondents


- (1.)We have heard Mr. Dushyant Dave, learned Amicus Curiae, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India, Mr. Tushar Mehta,learned Solicitor General and learned counsel for other parties.
I.A. No.48260 of 2020

(2.)By order dated 23.03.2020, we directed the States/Union Territories to constitute High Powered Committees which could decide which prisoners may be released on interim bail or parole during the pandemic (COVID 19). The purpose was to prevent the overcrowding of prisons so that in case of an outbreak of coronavirus in the prisons, the spread of the disease is manageable. The operative part of our order reads as follows:
"We direct that each State/Union Territory shall constitute a High Powered Committee comprising of (i) Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, (ii) the Principal Secretary(Home/Prison) by whatever designation is known as, (ii) Director General of Prison(s), to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may bethought appropriate. For instance, the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are under trial 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.

It is made clear that we leave it open for the High Powered Committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be released as aforesaid, depending upon the nature of 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 and is facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the Committee may consider appropriate."

(3.)We are informed that the State of Bihar has not found it appropriate to release the prisoners for complete absence of any patient suffering from coronavirus within the prisons and also for the reason that the prisons are not overcrowded. Moreover, even in one case the murder of a prisoner who was "accused" of suffering from coronavirus has been reported.

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