Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons

Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons | Supreme Court | |

In view of the Corona Virus Pandemic that has gripped the world, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto cognisance of the novel virus’s possible effect on the prison population, owing to its highly contagious property.

On 23.3.2020, the Apex Court directed constitution of a High-Powered Committee at State/UT level comprising of (i) Chairperson of State Legal Services Committee, (ii) the Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) by whatever designation is known as, and (iii) Director General of Prison(s), to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate. Further, the Under-Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) contemplated by this court in Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, WP(C) 406 of 2013, shall meet every week and take such decision in consultation with the concerned authority.

That since these directions were passed, there were further orders issued by the Central and State Governments extending the lockdown period from a week to 21 days in the entire country.

In view of the prevailing circumstances, and further keeping in mind that it is critical to decongest the prisons keeping in view the threat to the lives of the inmates in case the virus spreads, as well as maintaining proper hygiene, sanitation, social distancing, etc., the Applicant filed an intervention application praying to the Hon’ble Court to consider the additional suggestions being put forth by the Applicant.

One of the suggestions put forth was to provide transportation to the prisoners who were being released so that they could reach their homes, as they were found to be stranded due to the lockdown. The court vide order dated 7.4.2020 allowed the applicant’s prayer and ordered “the state governments/ Union territories to ensure through Director General of Police to provide safe transit to the prisoners who have been released so that they may reach their homes. They shall also be given an option for staying in temporary shelter homes during the period of lockdown.”  

Copies of the Application for Intervention and the Application for Directions are attached here along with the orders passed in the case.