- Apprentice Lawyer
Kerala High Court dismisses petitions challenging GO for return of prisoners released on parole amid COVID-19 [Read Judgment]
The Court observed that in light of the High Powered Committee's decision in the matter, which substantially accepted the GO, the petitions did not survive.
The Kerala High Court has dismissed a batch of petitions that challenged the State Government's decision directing the return of prisoners released on parole or interim bail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petitions had challenged the Government Order (GO) as having beeing taken without a prior recommendation of the High Powered Committee (HPC), given the Supreme Court's March 2 3 order vesting the HPC with such powers.
Since the majority of the petitions challenged the GO for having been issued without consultation with the State's HPC, the Court observed that they no longer survived after the HPC's decision to substantially accept the government's stance.
Justice VG Arun pronounced judgment in the matter today.
When a counsel interjected and stated that the HPC decision had not been tabled in Court or brought to the notice of the petitioners, the Judge stated that he had considered the contention but that the substantial portion of the Report had been reproduced in the State's affidavit as well as read out in Court during the hearing yesterday.
In light of this, it was for the government to decide on the modalities for the return of prisoners on the basis of the HPC's recommendation, the Court said.
Directing the State to inform the prisoners before requiring their return and to consider any other inconveniences the on-parole prisoners might have in returning to prison, the petitions were dismissed.
Yesterday, the counsel for the petitioners contended that despite the State's submission that a High Powered Committee had decided that prisoners on parole and interim bail would have to return immediately, the minutes of the meeting/report had not been presented in Court nor to the petitioners' counsel.
This showed that the Committee had something to hide. There is a violation of the principles of natural justice, Senior Advocate P Vijayabhanu and Advocate R Anil submitted in Court.
However, Senior Government Pleader Suman Chakravarthy proceeded to read the statement aloud in Court. The HPC had taken into account the improvement in the situation prevailing on account of the pandemic, and steps in place to curb the spread of the virus. As such, it directed that the prisoners return, the Court was told. It was also stated that a few prisoners had voluntarily surrendered and that others had committed crimes while on parole.
As per the minutes read in Court, the HPC has decided that prisoners would be required to return in phases. The returning prisoners would be taken to COVID-19 care centres for quarantine before being admitted to prison. There would be special measures for vulnerable inmates and inmates over the age of 65, it was additionally stated.
At an earlier hearing of the case, Justice Arun had recorded his satisfaction with the measures taken by the State to prepare prisons for the returning prisoners.
Kerala High Court seeks State response on preparedness to receive prisoners returning from parole amid COVID-19
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court had issued directions earlier this year for the decongestion of prisons. To that end, the top court had also ordered the constitution of State-level High Powered Committees which were to decide on these matters.
In light of the High Powered Committee's decision, the Court deemed it appropriate not to interfere with the proceedings and dismissed the pleas.
Read the Judgment: