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Delhi prison rules to be amended

By Richa Banka
PUBLISHED ON MAR 23, 2020 11:51 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi government is amending prison rules to introduce the concepts of an “emergency parole” and “special furlough” to decongest prisons in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Delhi high court was informed on Monday.

Advocate Anuj Agarwal, additional standing counsel of the Delhi government, told a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad that the prison inmates could apply for emergency parole and special furlough after the rules are amended and such provisions made.

Prison officers will decide on the applications based on the track record of inmates.

At over 18,000 prisoners against the sanctioned capacity of around 10,000, Delhi’s Tihar is the most populated prison complex in India.

In his oral submissions, Agarwal told the high court that the home department of the Delhi government proposed to issue a notification to introduce 60 days’ parole in one spell instead of two spells in a year and introduce a temporary special furlough in emergency situations such as a pandemic of the coronavirus kind.

Agarwal told the court that for under-trial prisoners who have been booked only in one case in which the maximum sentence is seven years or less and have spent at least three months in jail could be granted interim bail for 45 days if they make a request to that effect.

The submissions came while the court heard a plea by two city lawyers who sought directions to be issued to the Delhi government to ensure the safety and health of the inmates by providing them face masks and adequate sanitation facilities, among other things.

Following Agarwal’s submission, the high court asked the government to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of prisoners and disposed of the matter.

Advocate Ajay Verma, convener of the National Forum for Prison Reforms -- a group of lawyers that fights for implementation of reforms across prisons --- said once the prisoners are released, the government must ensure their safe transportation or make facilities for them to be housed in government-run shelter homes. While local residents among the prisoners can reunite with their families, outstation prisoners may not be able to reach their hometowns because of a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

“Interim bail for a period of 45 days is indeed a good effort. A lot of under-trial prisoners would be released. As of Monday, 14516 prisoners in Tihar Jail are under-trial, out of 17,647 prisoners. Interim bail would not mean that hardened criminals would be out. Interim bail can be cancelled if anyone violates the conditions,” Verma said.

A plea by Shobha Gupta, a lawyer, said that she had received a copy of a letter sent by one inmate requesting his own interim bail after he got to know about the coronavirus outbreak and said that many of the prisoners were worried.

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