New Delhi, November 5: The Delhi High Court on Thursday extended the interim bail of over 3,300 undertrial prisoners by 30 days to de-congest jails here in the wake of the persisting coronavirus pandemic. 

The decision of the high court was based on the recommendation of the high powered committee (HPC) constituted on the direction of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to prevent spread of COVID-19 there, news agency PTI reported.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh passed the order in view of the HPC’s recommendation to give a final 30-day extension in interim bails granted to 3,337 undertrial prisoners on the basis of criteria laid down by the committee so that their surrender do not overwhelm prisons in the national capital, which are already filled beyond capacity. 

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, appearing for the prison authorities, confirmed that the interim bails have been extended for 30 days. 

The HPC headed by Justice Hima Kohli, which was constituted on the direction of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to prevent spread of COVID-19 there, in its meeting held on October 24 had said that taking into account the present population in Delhi jails and the high court’s full bench order of October 20 directing surrender of around 2,674 prisoners between November 2 and November 13, the authorities would not be able to isolate all the new inmates for 14 days. 

However, the high court’s October 20 decision was subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court on October 29. 

The interim bail of prisoners released in accordance with criteria laid down by the HPC was last extended on September 18 for 45 days. 

In the meeting of the HPC held on October 24, the Director General (DG) Prisons had informed it that the present prison population, in the jails of Tihar, Rohini and Mandolli, was 15,887 as against a capacity of 10,226 and due to the High Court’s full bench order of October 20, the numbers would increase by 2,674 more. 

He had said that if the undertrial prisoners (UTPs) and convicts who were granted bail and parole, respectively, based on criteria laid down by the HPC were to surrender also, the prison population was likely to reach around 22,000 which was an unprecedented situation and may even become unmanageable during the prevailing situation. 

He had said that in such a situation “it would be appropriate, if interim bail/emergency parole granted to 3,337 UTPs and 1,182 convicts under HPC criteria may be extended for a further period of 30 days”. 

The HPC had agreed with the suggestion, saying even the additional accommodation — in a newly created temporary jail near Mandoli — for around 1,800 inmates would not be able to accommodate the prisoners who are surrendering on the directions of the full bench and those who were granted interim bail/emergency parole on the recommendations of the committee as all new and returning prisoners have to be kept in isolation for 14 days. 

It had directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority to place its recommendation to extend the interim bail of the 3,337 UTPs for one last time before the High Court for appropriate action by way of judicial orders.

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