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The Delhi Government today informed the Delhi High Court that it was going to amend its Prison Rules to provide for special parole and furlough to prisoners in a bid to decongest its prisons in the wake of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak. (Shobha Gupta & Anr vs UOI & ors)
The Court was informed that provisions for granting "special parole" and "special furlough" will be introduced for a certain category of prisoners in situations like epidemic, natural disaster or any such situations which warrant the immediate release of prisoners in their interest, as well as the interest of the society.
The statement was made by the Delhi Government before a Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad.
The Court was hearing a public interest litigation preferred by petitioners-in-person, Shobha Gupta and Rajesh Sachdeva, seeking the immediate temporary release of all the undertrials and convicts, who in jail for non – heinous offences with maximum imprisonment upto 5 years and fine.
The Petitioners had also sought a direction to the Authorities to immediately segregate ailing inmates in the three jails in the city, namely Tihar, Mandawali and Rohini Jails, and to provide proper facilities and arrangement for examination and treatment of prisoners.
The Petitioners asserted that on March 18, 2020, Tihar Jail quarantined about 18 inmates, who are suspected of coronavirus and a similar situation was seen in the Rohini Jail where three persons from jail number 3, five from jail number 5, three from jail number 8-9 and one from jail number 10 were put up in isolation.
It was Petitioner's concern that given the fact that the jails are overcrowded, if the situation is not controlled, it may lead to a very dangerous and uncontrollable situation.
The Petition reads,
"Because despite being physically secure, jails and prisons are not isolated from the community. People continuously enter and leave, including multiple shifts of corrections staff; newly arrested, charged and sentenced individuals; attorneys; and visitors. Even if this flow is limited to the extent possible, correctional facilities remain densely populated and poorly designed to prevent the rapid and widespread dissemination of this deadly virus."
The Petitioner thus argued that the need of the hour was to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus inside the prisons.
In view of the submissions made by Delhi Government, the Court diposed of the petition with a direction to the Government to implement its decision during the course of the day.
The matter was not examined further in light of the pendency of a similar issue before the Supreme Court.
Delhi Government was represented through Additional Standing Counsel Anuj Aggarwal.
Read the Order: