After 4 die of Covid-19, Tihar asks govt to allow release of inmates on parole
New Delhi: The death of four prisoners due to Covid-19 in the past three days has prompted Tihar Jail authorities to write to the Delhi government, requesting them to release some prisoners under “emergency parole” as one of the immediate measures to decongest the prison.
While two prisoners died of the viral infection on Tuesday, two more succumbed to the disease on Thursday. HT had reported that with over 20,000 inmates currently lodged there, Tihar is at its most congested ever. It is almost double the official capacity of the prison, which has made social distancing and isolation a major problem.
Delhi government officers, who wished not to be named, said they have received the jail’s proposal and were looking at different solutions to decongest the prison complex.
Until April 6, the jail had only 19 infected prisoners. At that time, not a single jail staff had the disease. Currently, there are at least 261 Covid-19 positive inmates and 115 infected jail officers, underlining how fast the infection has spread throughout the jail in just 23 days.
The Delhi high court also heard a petition on the issue on Wednesday and sought the response of the Centre, the Delhi government and the prison authorities. The petitioner demanded parole for prisoners involved in non-heinous crimes from three jails in the city in view of the unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases.
A bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jasmeet Singh issued a notice to the ministries of law and health, the Delhi government, police, office of the Lieutenant Governor and the director general of prisons, seeking their stand on the petition by May 4.
The two prisoners, who died on Thursday, were admitted at the GTB hospital. One of them Kamaljeet, 75, an inmate of jail 3 was admitted to GTB on April 21. The second, Kehkashan, 41, was admitted to the hospital on April 22.
On Tuesday night, prisoner Mukesh Talwar, 61, had succumbed to the disease. Talwar, who was arrested in a rape case last month, was lodged in jail 7 and had tested positive on April 22. Hours before Talwar’s death, a 43-year-old prisoner Mohammed Anis, who was lodged in jail number 4, too had died of the disease at the DDU hospital.
Last year, nearly 6,000 prisoners were released on special parole and bail to decongest the jail when the pandemic spread in March. They were directed to later on dates decided by a high-powered committee of the high court, which included members of the state government, courts and prison.
With cases declining after the third wave of the infection in October-November, the Delhi high court in December ordered the prisoners to surrender in a phased manner between February and March.
Until February, the prison population was less than 13,000. However, with over 6,000 inmates back in jail, the total number of inmates went beyond 20500, twice the jail’s capacity of 10026. Officials said it is the highest population of inmates in the jail till date.
A mid-level prison officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “ The government should act fast and decide. During the first, second and third wave, the cases were under control in our jails. Two persons died in June and July, last year. In February, there was a time, when there was not a single case. It is scary today. Even prisoners, like Rajan(Chhota Rajan) who were in isolation have tested positive. Four inmates have died in three days.”
Among the famous prisoners who are currently Covid-19 positive are underworld gangster Chhota Rajan and former politician turned gangster Mohammed Shahabuddin. While Rajan has been admitted to AIIMS, Shahabuddin is under treatment at the DDU hospital. Student activist Umar Khalid, arrested for his alleged role in the Delhi riots, too, is in isolation after testing positive.
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