Keeping in view of the situation of the country about the widespread severe effect of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Supreme Court asked all the states to consider releasing prisoners for decongesting our jails.

The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde directed the states to form a high-powered committee comprising the Principal Secretary of the Home Department, the Chairman of the State Legal Services Authority, and the Director-General of Prisons to consider various steps for de-congesting the prisons.

The prisoners whose imprisonment period is less than 7 years can be released on bail or on parole as the committee deems fit.

The Court also opined that the High Powered Committee will be free to determine the category of prisoners who should be released by keeping in mind various factors. Some of the factors include the nature of the offence, the number of years to which he or she has been sentenced or the severity of the offence with which he/she is charged with and is facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the Committee may consider appropriate.

The main issue for this step is our overcrowded jails and to further prevent this cause the Court has also issued general directions to the States and Union Territories to ensure maximum possible distancing among the prisoners including undertrials to minimize the risk of viral transmission.

This recommendation has been made keeping in the mind the Article 21 of the Constitution of India which says that every person has a right to life and personal liberty, therefore, it has become imperative to ensure that the spread of the Corona Virus within the prisons is controlled.

The Court also stated that the physical presence of the prisoners should be stopped forthwith and recourse to video conferencing must be taken for all measures.

To further ensure social distancing the Court stated that the prisoners should be separated from one another and transferred to other prisons. Moreover, for the Medical Treatment the sick people should be shifted to Nodal Medical Institution in case of any infection.

The Court had sought suggestions from all states for measures that can be taken to prevent possible spread of the COVID-19 among prisoners as well as juveniles lodged at remand homes.

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