New Delhi, October 29: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed an order directing more than 2,300 under trials to surrender after the Delhi high court ended the arrangement by which interim bail of prisoners was automatically extended to prevent overcrowding of prisons during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A three-judge bench of Justices LN Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi stayed the October 20 order issued by a three-judge bench of the Delhi HC headed by Chief Justice DN Patel. The order came on a petition filed by National Forum on Prison Reforms argued by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, the Hindustan Times reported.

The high court had directed 2318 under-trials involved in heinous offences to surrender in a phased manner latest by November 13. About the remaining 2,907 prisoners, whose interim bails were extended by HC’s previous orders, a high powered committee was set up on the orders of the Supreme Court for deciding their surrender on a case to case basis. 

The apex bench said, “There shall be stay of directions (i), (ii) and (iv) given in paragraph 7 of the impugned order dated October 20 passed by the High Court.” The stay would operate till November 26 when the bench will hear the prison authorities and Delhi government on the petition.

Gonsalves told the apex court that the order of the HC will result in widespread confusion as prisoners will be forced to approach different trial courts.

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