Delhi: At least 80 prisoners out on ‘emergency parole’ fail to surrender
At least 80 prisoners, who were granted emergency parole last year at the beginning of the pandemic to decongest prisons, are currently on the run, officials said.
Prison officials said they will write to the Delhi Police with a list of names of all prisoners who had failed to return after the end of their bail period. Several jail officers, who did not wish to be named, said that among the 80, there are many murder convicts who were supposed to surrender this month.
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“The process of surrendering began on February 6. The prisoners had to surrender at Mandoli jail and quarantine there before their transfer to their respective jails. Officials at Mandoli have reported that there at 20-30 prisoners from each sub-jail, who have not yet surrendered. We had chosen Mandoli jail as the surrender point so that even if a prisoner was Covid-19 positive, the infection could be detected early before they are allowed to mingle with other prisoners,” said a jail officer.
As one of the first measures to decongest jails and ensure social distancing at the start of the pandemic, nearly 1,000 prisoners were released on “emergency parole” in April last year. The three jails in Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini collectively hold over 18,000 prisoners. Apart from the 1,000 prisoners, those who had a clean record in prison; were not arrested in terror crimes or cases registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation were also released on interim bail. With the three prisons holding more than the sanctioned strength of prisoners, a high-powered committee of judicial officers, Delhi government and prison department had stressed upon the need to decongest the prison complex.
Officials at the three jails have also been on high alert since the pandemic began and several jails in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh reported a high number of Covid-19 cases. This was the first time that so many prisoners were released on parole.
The prisoners were originally supposed to surrender after eight weeks, but the surrender date was extended multiple times as Covid-19 cases kept rising till November last year. Finally, the surrender process started on February 6, during which jail authorities noted that many prisoners had refused to return.
One such prisoner, who had been declared absconding was convict Shamshad Khutkan alias Rahul, 31, convicted in the 2010 Dhaula Kuan gangrape case. Khutkan, who was serving life imprisonment in the infamous case, was among those released last year on parole. Khutkan was to surrender on February 20, but went on the run. A police team arrested him on February 22 (Monday) after a shoot-out in north Delhi. Police said that Khutkan refused to turn himself in and was arrested with a pistol, which he used to fire at the police team on Monday. Delhi Police on Monday said that Khutkan was involved in at least 12 robberies in the last two months.
A second jail officer said that apart from the 80 who are on the run, there are many elderly prisoners who have informed the prison department that they are waiting till the Delhi high court decides on a plea about the surrender of prisoners above 65 years. A city lawyer has filed a plea requesting the high court to extend the parole for all elderly prisoners. “There are a few elderly ones, who are in touch with us. We cannot call them absconding.”
Sandeep Goel, director-general of prisons, Delhi, said, “At this stage, it will not be proper to estimate the number of prisoners who have not returned. The process of surrender is still on. We will be informing the concerned police station if prisoners fail to return.”
Till date, Delhi prisons have reported two deaths due to Covid-19. At least 350 prisoners and officials were infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus but have recovered. Apart from testing new prisoners before they mix with other inmates behind bars, the prison authorities are also conducting regular tests within the prison complex.