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Akhil Gogoi granted bail, Maha and Punjab to release prisoners on bail due to Covid-19

Maharashtra will release 11,000 inmates on emergency parole, Punjab to release 6,000 prisoners

Priyanka Kavish 28 Mar 2020

Akhil gogoiImage Courtesy: m.economictimes.com

The Guwahati High Court also granted bail to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader, Akhil Gogoi who led anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam, reported Live Law. In wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Justice Ajai Lamba heard his plea in a ‘virtual court’. Gogoi was accused of committing various “criminal acts with intent to facilitate design to wage war against the State, by means of using the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament as a cause.”

Justice Lamba said that the public prosecutor wasn’t able to show any evidence to indicate that Gogoi was waging a war against the State. Saying so, the court granted him bail observing that he had been in custody for 41 days and keeping him back any further would neither serve any purpose of the law, nor the investigation.

Gogoi was arrested by the Assam Police on December 12 for an anti-CAA protest, after which he was handed over the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which had taken over the probe in the matter. Though he was granted bail by the special NIA court, he had to remain in Guwahati Central Prison due to another case filed against him by the city Panbazaar Police Station (Crime Branch) in January this year.

Meanwhile, in a bid to decongest prisons in line with a Supreme Court order, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has permitted the rlease of at least 11,000 prisoners on Emergency Parole, initially for 45 days.

In a statement released, the minister said that there are at least 45 prisons in the state which house around 60,000 prisoners. Suffering from overcrowding, prisoners here live in a congested space. As these prisons could become a potential flashpoint for the rapid spread of Covid-19, the government has decided to release undertrial prisoners and those convicted up to 7 years of imprisonment. Those charged with heinous crimes like major economic offences would not be eligible for the same. Keeping in mind the current lockdown situation in the country, the government stated that before their release, the prisoners would undergo a thorough medical check and would be issued necessary passes which would facilitate them to go to their native places.

The decision was taken after the Supreme Court ordered states and union territories to constitute a high-powered committee to meet and plan the decongestion of jails amid this outbreak.

Speaking to The Indian Express, an IPS officer said that the duration of the parole could be extended for another 30 days post the initial 45 days, if the Epidemic Diseases Act continues to remain in force. He said, “This will be done after bringing in a notification citing the Epidemic Act that is currently enforced in the state. Once the Act is withdrawn, the inmates will be expected back in the prison. The technical formalities will begin on Friday and later the inmates will be produced before their respective courts, which will then grant them bail. The procedure should take a week’s time.”

It was also reported that only those convicts would be considered for emergency parole who had earlier strictly followed the parole and furlough protocols imposed on them in the past.

According to the India Justice Report 2019, the occupancy rate in Indian prisons stood at 114%. According to the report, for every convict, India had two undertrials in its jails with 41% of the undertrial population being concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. Earlier too, granting bail to undertrials was seen as a measure of decongestion, especially in Pune’s Yerawada Central Prison and Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where overcrowding is to the extent of four times the holding capacity.

Also, following suo moto orders taken by metropolitan courts in the city including those in Dadar, Borivali and Bandra, over a 100 undertrials, booked for non-serious offences were directed to be released. Courts in Raigad and Solapur too passed similar orders, directing the release of around 300 prisoners.

Chandigarh too is set to release around 6,000 prisoners from all the jails across the state. Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that convicts would be released on parole for six weeks and undertrials would be released on interim bail for the same period. He informed that there were 24,000 people lodged in 24 jails across the state against the authorized capacity of 23,488.

In his statement, he also said that prisoners who were already out on parole would be given a six-week extension to keep decongestion measures in mind. He added that special cases under certain heads of crime, including cheating and the Excise Act would also be considered for bail and camp courts would be held on jail premises for the grant of interim bail, reported The New Indian Express.

Post the SC order to decongest prisons, the Tamil Nadu state judiciary had ordered the release of 1,180 prisoners.

The Tihar Prison authorities said they too were planning to release 3,000 prisoners – 1,500 on parole or furlough and 1,500 undertrials on interim bail in the coming days to ease the crowd in prisons.

Measures to de-congest prisons

The Model Prison Manual has provided guidelines for the safety of prisoners in light of a pandemic. These include segregation sheds for every prisoner, holding afflicted prisoners in a different building and the treatment of their clothes and barracks be done promptly.

Due to the volatile nature of the coronavirus, in some cases a person with no symptoms may still be carrying it, it is necessary that state and central governments adopt timely measures for the safety of inmates. So far, Firstpost reported that Delhi and Odisha have restricted entry of visitors and made arrangements for videoconferencing. A medical examination of inmates has also been undertaken in various prisons and they have been provided with masks and other facilities for sanitation.

However, apart from these measures and the transfer / parole of inmates, it is necessary to provide adequate safety facilities to the prison staff and undertake a wholesome health screening of every inmate to not miss out on anyone without symptoms carrying the virus.

Related:

State prisons suffer from overcrowding; no welfare policy for inmates
SC suggests release of prisoners on parole, states yet to respond
Post SC order, Tamil Nadu government releases 1,184 prisoners to curb n-Cov 19 spread
Assam groups demand Akhil Gogoi’s release after reports of ill health and NIA negligence
Akhil Gogoi granted bail

 

Akhil Gogoi granted bail, Maha and Punjab to release prisoners on bail due to Covid-19

Maharashtra will release 11,000 inmates on emergency parole, Punjab to release 6,000 prisoners

Akhil gogoiImage Courtesy: m.economictimes.com

The Guwahati High Court also granted bail to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader, Akhil Gogoi who led anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam, reported Live Law. In wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Justice Ajai Lamba heard his plea in a ‘virtual court’. Gogoi was accused of committing various “criminal acts with intent to facilitate design to wage war against the State, by means of using the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament as a cause.”

Justice Lamba said that the public prosecutor wasn’t able to show any evidence to indicate that Gogoi was waging a war against the State. Saying so, the court granted him bail observing that he had been in custody for 41 days and keeping him back any further would neither serve any purpose of the law, nor the investigation.

Gogoi was arrested by the Assam Police on December 12 for an anti-CAA protest, after which he was handed over the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which had taken over the probe in the matter. Though he was granted bail by the special NIA court, he had to remain in Guwahati Central Prison due to another case filed against him by the city Panbazaar Police Station (Crime Branch) in January this year.

Meanwhile, in a bid to decongest prisons in line with a Supreme Court order, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has permitted the rlease of at least 11,000 prisoners on Emergency Parole, initially for 45 days.

In a statement released, the minister said that there are at least 45 prisons in the state which house around 60,000 prisoners. Suffering from overcrowding, prisoners here live in a congested space. As these prisons could become a potential flashpoint for the rapid spread of Covid-19, the government has decided to release undertrial prisoners and those convicted up to 7 years of imprisonment. Those charged with heinous crimes like major economic offences would not be eligible for the same. Keeping in mind the current lockdown situation in the country, the government stated that before their release, the prisoners would undergo a thorough medical check and would be issued necessary passes which would facilitate them to go to their native places.

The decision was taken after the Supreme Court ordered states and union territories to constitute a high-powered committee to meet and plan the decongestion of jails amid this outbreak.

Speaking to The Indian Express, an IPS officer said that the duration of the parole could be extended for another 30 days post the initial 45 days, if the Epidemic Diseases Act continues to remain in force. He said, “This will be done after bringing in a notification citing the Epidemic Act that is currently enforced in the state. Once the Act is withdrawn, the inmates will be expected back in the prison. The technical formalities will begin on Friday and later the inmates will be produced before their respective courts, which will then grant them bail. The procedure should take a week’s time.”

It was also reported that only those convicts would be considered for emergency parole who had earlier strictly followed the parole and furlough protocols imposed on them in the past.

According to the India Justice Report 2019, the occupancy rate in Indian prisons stood at 114%. According to the report, for every convict, India had two undertrials in its jails with 41% of the undertrial population being concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. Earlier too, granting bail to undertrials was seen as a measure of decongestion, especially in Pune’s Yerawada Central Prison and Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where overcrowding is to the extent of four times the holding capacity.

Also, following suo moto orders taken by metropolitan courts in the city including those in Dadar, Borivali and Bandra, over a 100 undertrials, booked for non-serious offences were directed to be released. Courts in Raigad and Solapur too passed similar orders, directing the release of around 300 prisoners.

Chandigarh too is set to release around 6,000 prisoners from all the jails across the state. Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that convicts would be released on parole for six weeks and undertrials would be released on interim bail for the same period. He informed that there were 24,000 people lodged in 24 jails across the state against the authorized capacity of 23,488.

In his statement, he also said that prisoners who were already out on parole would be given a six-week extension to keep decongestion measures in mind. He added that special cases under certain heads of crime, including cheating and the Excise Act would also be considered for bail and camp courts would be held on jail premises for the grant of interim bail, reported The New Indian Express.

Post the SC order to decongest prisons, the Tamil Nadu state judiciary had ordered the release of 1,180 prisoners.

The Tihar Prison authorities said they too were planning to release 3,000 prisoners – 1,500 on parole or furlough and 1,500 undertrials on interim bail in the coming days to ease the crowd in prisons.

Measures to de-congest prisons

The Model Prison Manual has provided guidelines for the safety of prisoners in light of a pandemic. These include segregation sheds for every prisoner, holding afflicted prisoners in a different building and the treatment of their clothes and barracks be done promptly.

Due to the volatile nature of the coronavirus, in some cases a person with no symptoms may still be carrying it, it is necessary that state and central governments adopt timely measures for the safety of inmates. So far, Firstpost reported that Delhi and Odisha have restricted entry of visitors and made arrangements for videoconferencing. A medical examination of inmates has also been undertaken in various prisons and they have been provided with masks and other facilities for sanitation.

However, apart from these measures and the transfer / parole of inmates, it is necessary to provide adequate safety facilities to the prison staff and undertake a wholesome health screening of every inmate to not miss out on anyone without symptoms carrying the virus.

Related:

State prisons suffer from overcrowding; no welfare policy for inmates
SC suggests release of prisoners on parole, states yet to respond
Post SC order, Tamil Nadu government releases 1,184 prisoners to curb n-Cov 19 spread
Assam groups demand Akhil Gogoi’s release after reports of ill health and NIA negligence
Akhil Gogoi granted bail

 

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