Decide 12,751 bail applications within 10 days, don’t arrest unnecessarily: HPC’s directive to decongest jails
Decide 12,751 bail applications within 10 days, don’t arrest unnecessarily: HPC’s directive to decongest jails
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Mumbai: The Maharashtra High Power Committee chaired by Justice Amjad Sayed of the Bombay High Court has ordered the lower courts in the state to "liberally" decide within 10 days the 12,751 applications filed by under-trials, seeking interim bail.

The committee has further asked police authorities in the state not to make "unnecessary" arrests in domestic violence cases and in offences that has a maximum punishment of seven years which and a further directive has been issued to Magistrates not to pass "mechanical" orders granting custody of arrested accused.

The HPC has further allowed 3,182 under-trials to once again file applications for temporary release and has ordered the courts to reconsider their pleas without getting influenced by their earlier rejections.

The committee also comprising of Anand Limaye, Additional Chief Secretary (Appeals and Security), home department and Sunil Ramanand, Additional Director General of Police (Prisons), has reiterated that the category of prisoners, it had decided last year would continue and the inmates either booked or convicted under special laws won't be entitled to be released.

The committee has also ordered the authorities to decide pending applications seeking emergency parole or furlough within 10 days. Further, the HPC noted that applications filed by prisoners above the age of 65 years are pending and thus must be decided "sympathetically" as soon as possible.

Vaccination centers, possibly in all jails, have been ordered by the HPC. The HPC had met on May 7 (physically) and May 11 (Virtually) pursuant to the orders of the Bombay HC bench led by Chief Justice asking the committee to meet once again and categorise more inmates, who could be released temporarily to decongest jails.

The committee in its orders noted that last year when it was constituted, there were more than 36,000 prisoners and pursuant to its orders the state had released over 10,000 prisoners leaving behind 26,379 inmates, a number which still bypassed the actual capacity of 23,262.

The committee further took into account the fact that from July 2020 till April 2021, the numbers in jails increased from 26,379 to 34, 224 prisoners. The committee further noted, "Presently, the entire country is engulfed in what is now described as the 'second wave' of the Corona virus (COVID 19) which is found to be more virulent and lethal by experts. The prisoners in Maharashtra, who have been released during the 'first wave' have not been called back and they continue to remain on interim bail/emergency parole."

"In the meanwhile, however, new prisoners/inmates have been admitted to various prisons in the state, as a result of which the prison population in Maharashtra has gone up substantially again, thereby overcrowding the prisons," the committee recorded in its orders.

The committee has further directed the authorities to shift under-trials from overcrowded prisons to jails that are having fewer inmates or in temporary open jails.

Further, a slew of directives includes, "Regular testing be done of the prisoners as well as the jail staff. Appropriate medical facilities and treatment be made available to the prisoners and prison staff, who are affected by the coronavirus."

"Prisoners, as well as the staff, be vaccinated at the earliest by conducting vaccination drive as and when sufficient stocks are made available. The home department, Maharashtra to take up the issue of vaccination with the health department, so as to set up Vaccination Centres in all the prisons of Maharashtra," Justice Sayed ordered.

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