Prison officers said the decision to release the women and children came in the backdrop of rising cases of Covid-19 inside women’s jail.(HT_PRINT)
Prison officers said the decision to release the women and children came in the backdrop of rising cases of Covid-19 inside women’s jail.(HT_PRINT)

Decongestion drive at Tihar excludes those caught for Covid-related crimes

On Thursday, the prison department, on the directions of the HPC, released at least 700 prisoners from the first batch of 1,133, who have been granted interim bail to decongest the prison complex.
By Prawesh Lama, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 15, 2021 04:11 AM IST

At least 100 Tihar jail prisoners, arrested for non-heinous crimes like hoarding or black marketing of Covid-19 medical supplies, or cheating during the pandemic, have been denied interim bail by the Supreme Court-appointed High Powered Committee (HPC) in charge of decongesting the prison complex, according to officers privy to the development.

The HPC excluded them from the list of prisoners eligible for interim bail after Delhi police wrote to the committee, pointing out that such people took advantage of the chaos during the pandemic “to make wrong and undue profits by black marketing and selling drugs”.

Agreeing with the police’s contention, the HPC -- consisting members of the high court, state government, prison department and the Delhi police -- added such prisoners to the list of those not eligible for interim bail, whenever the government takes steps to decongest the jail complex. While their cases will be seen at par with those arrested for terror crimes, who are also excluded from interim-bail, they can apply for regular bail in courts as part of their ongoing trial.

On Thursday, the prison department, on the directions of the HPC, released at least 700 prisoners from the first batch of 1,133, who have been granted interim bail to decongest the prison complex. Nearly 19,500 prisoners were lodged at Tihar jail, against a sanctioned capacity of 10,026. The released prisoners will have to surrender after 90 days.

Senior prison officers said that in the last 10 days, jail superintendents had received requests from at least four persons arrested for black marketing and hoarding Covid-19 medical supplies, requesting to be considered for release.

“It is good that such category of prisoners have been excluded. This will send a message to all people outside who are misusing people’s helpless in this pandemic. The crimes of hoarding medicines or selling it at exorbitant rates at a time like this is a crime on humanity,”said a senior police, officer, who wished not to be named.

In the last few weeks, police have arrested 102 people for various crimes, including hoarding Covid-19 supplies such as medicines, oxygen cylinders, and oxygen concentrators, and cheating people after promising to provide them medicines. At least five nurses have been arrested for stealing medicines such as remdesivir. Five ambulance drivers were arrested for overcharging while four others were also arrested for duping relatives of Covid-19 patients by passing off fire extinguishers as oxygen cylinders

WOMEN AND CHILDREN RELEASED

At least seven pregnant women undertrial prisoners along with 25 other women and their children -- about 26 of them, aged below 6 -- were also released from the women’s jail at Tihar on Thursday and Friday. Prison officers said the decision to release the women and children came in the backdrop of rising cases of Covid-19 inside women’s jail.

HT had on May 5 reported how jail number 6 (women’s jail) had the most number of cases despite housing the least number of prisoners -- about 444 prisoners compared to 1,500-2,000 in other jails. The spread of the infection inside the women’s jail had prompted jail officers to start a Covid ward inside the women’s jail. Of the six prisoners, who have died of the infection, a women’s jail inmate, Kahkashan (41), succumbed to the disease on Aprl 29 at GTB hospital.

Meanwhile, prison authorities are still awaiting the state government’s orders for the release of 1,000 convicts, who are eligible for release under “emergency parole”. These prisoners had been released on “emergency parole” last year at the start of the pandemic and surrendered in February 2021, when Covid cases in Delhi were at its lowest.

The HPC has laid down categories for undertrial prisoners -- such as those in civil imprisonment,senior citizens facing trial for offences with a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail, those suffering serious illnesses and are facing trial for offences with punishment ranging from 10 years to life, first time offenders arrested for none heinous crimes where punishment, if convicted, is less than seven years. -- to be eligible for grant of 90 days interim bail on furnishing a personal bond.

<Lama trying for on-record quote>

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