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COVID-19 cases in Rohini Jail; Criteria for release on interim bail relaxed to include murder accused

Aditi Singh

With the detection of cases of COVID-19 in Rohini Jail, the High Powered Committee for Delhi has further relaxed the criteria for release of undertrial prisoners on interim bail.

The Committee headed by Justice Hima Kohli was informed that one of the inmates from Rohini Jail was admitted in DDU Hospital earlier this month for an intestinal problem. Thereafter, he tested positive for COVID-19. This inmate was sharing barrack with 19 other inmates, out of which 15 tested positive. One jail staff was also found to be COVID-19 positive.

In view of this situation, the Director-General (Prisons) requested the Committee that the criteria for interim bail be further relaxed to decongest the jails as the present occupancy was still beyond the optimum capacity of the Jail.

Thus, to facilitate social distancing, the Committee resolved to extend interim bail for 45 days to the following category of undertrials, preferably on Personal Bond:

- Undertrial prisoners facing trial for a case under Section 302 IPC and are in jail for more than two years with no involvement in any other case;

- Undertrial prisoners facing trial for offence under Section 304 IPC and are in jail for more than one year with no involvement in any other case;

- Undertrial prisoners facing trial in a case under Section 307 or 308 IPC and are in jail for more than six months with no involvement in any other case;

- Undertrial prisoners facing trial/remand prisoners in theft cases and are in jail for more than 15 days;

- Male Under trial prisoners (above 65 years of age) facing trial in a case except the ones excluded hereunder and are in jail for more than six months with no involvement in any other case;

- Female Undertrial prisoners (above 60 years of age) facing trial in a case except the ones excluded hereunder and are in jail for more than six months with no involvement in any other case.

It has further been resolved that following category of inmates, even if falling in the above criterion, should not be considered :-

(i) All inmates who are undergoing trial for intermediary/large quantity recovery under NDPS Act;

(ii) Those undertrial prisoners who are facing trial under Section 4 & 6 of POCSO Act;

(iii) Those under trial prisoners who are facing trial for offences under section 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D and 376E and acid attack;

(iv) Those UTPs who are foreign nationals;

(v) Those undertrial prisoners who are facing trial under Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act)/PMLA; and

(vi) Cases investigated by CBI/ED/NIA/Special Cell Police and terror-related Cases, cases under anti-national activities and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act etc.

It is expected that on the basis of this new criterion, approximately 1500 - 1700 inmates would be benefited.

The Committee also dismissed a representation which alleged discrimination against those who are facing trial for offences relating to fraud, cheating, cases under Prevention of Corruption Act and under PMLA.

Holding that no prisoner, in whatsoever category/class he falls and whatever nature of offence he is facing trial, can seek or claim to be released from prison as a matter of right, the Committee stated,

"On bare perusal of the observations/directions given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated 23.03.2020, it is apparent that the High Powered Committee so constituted was given an absolute discretion to determine which class/category of the prisoners can be released on interim bail or parole depending not only upon the severity ofthe offence, but also the nature of offence or any other relevant factor. It is further apparent on perusal of the subsequent order dated 13.04.2020 of Hon’ble Supreme Court whereby it was clarified that it has not directed the States/Union Territories to compulsorily release the prisoners from their respective prisons."

It nonetheless clarified that prisoners who do not fall within the "relaxed criteria" for grant of interim bail were at liberty to file bail applications before the courts concerned for consideration on merits, in accordance with law.

The Committee also took stock of the steps taken by the Jail Authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Read the Minutes :

2020_5_18_Delhi_Minutes of Delhi HPC Meeting .pdf
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