1,700 women undertrials released since lockdown began: NCW
Since the lockdown was announced, over 1,700 women undertrials have been given parole by seven states to ensure social distancing in jails, the National Commission for Women (NCW) said on Monday.
With 1,039 paroles, Uttar Pradesh let go of the maximum number of women undertrials, followed by Haryana with 223 women undertrials. Chhattisgarh (107), Gujarat (102), West Bengal (93), Delhi (73), Telangana (61) and Manipur (4) were the other states.
The women’s agency had asked prison authorities from 25 states to take part in a review meeting on Monday to take stock of their reform measures for women inmates. The NCW had on April 22 asked states to implement a slew of measures for safety of women during the Covid-19 pandemic. On Sunday, a woman in Byculla jail was found to be positive for Covid-19.
Most of the states reported 50-80% occupancy after authorities gave bail to women undertrials. “No cases of Covid-19 positive have been found in women’s prison wards and barracks,” the NCW said.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said the virtual meeting was necessitated by several states not following up on the April 22 advisory. Some jails, she said, had pregnant women. “Haryana, with 7 pregnant women, had the highest and Bihar has three. They are taken care of,” she said.
Karnataka, she said, was giving jobs to women who have finished jail term or were on parole in a petrol pump run wholly by women. The prisoners in the state of Kerala have manufactured nearly 500 litres of sanitisers under the lockdown.
“The state of Tamil Nadu has made total of 2900 video calls and other states were advised to advertise E-Mulaqat on a bigger scale. A commendable task is done by the state of Kerala, where 10,000 (female and male) prisoners were presented before the court for their (parole) proceedings,” the NCW said in a release.
The women’s agency had in a letter on April 22 to Director General and Inspector General of Prisons in states, recommended that to decongest jails under the lockdown, women undertrials even in non-bailable offences be given bail application under Section 437(I)(ii) of the CrPC. Services of the respective state or District Legal Services Authority (SLSA/DLSA) should be provided to women so that they can place the applications of the inmates before a competent court, the letter said.
The NCW had also suggested that the legal help should come with positive recommendation from the prosecution side. It also asked prison officials to maintain hygienic conditions and ensure supply of toiletries, masks, hand gloves and sanitisers, provide adequate medical and healthcare services.
“Provisions for medical check-up and arranging for services of specialists like psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers, gynaecologists on visit basis in the prison ... authorities should also arrange and encourage video conferencing of the prisoners with their family members, for the psychological and mental wellbeing and strength of the prisoners,” read the NCW’s recommendations.