To avert overcrowding in prisons due to the COVID pandemic, the Supreme Court directed all states and union territories to establish high level committees to determine class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde observed that the prisoners who are convicted for an offences having jail term of upto seven years can be granted parole in order to decongest the jails.
The bench suggested that the High Level committee will work in consultation with the State Legal Service Authority for release pf prisoners.
The High Powered Committee shall determine on the merits of the offences committed by the prisoners as to who can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as the committee deems fit and appropriate. For example, 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.
The Supreme Court issued that the physical presence of undertrials before courts must be stopped and video conferencing must be resorted. Considering the fact that the virus can be transmitted from outside too, the court stated that physical presence of the undertrials or prisoners may have adverse consequences hence to avoid the same one should take the recourse to video conferencing for all purposes.
The report of the National Crime Records Bureau, it had stated that the occupancy rate of Indian prisons is at 117.% and in the States the occupancy is as high as 176.5 %. The Supreme Court stated that the COVID 19 pandemic is likely to be transmitted in overcrowded areas and places, thus mass gatherings should be avoided.
The Supreme Court is of the view that the prison is a place which is regularly visited by several lawyers, visitors and owing to this reason there is high risk of transmission of COVID-19 to the prison inmates.