Provide safe transit to released prisoners: SC

The Supreme Court Tuesday directed all sates and Union Territories to ensure through Director Generals of Police (DGPs) that prisoners released from jails get safe transit, so that they can reach their homes amid the coronavirus lockdown.

The top court said the prisoners be given the option of staying in temporary shelter homes during the period of lockdown.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao issued the directions in the matter taken up suo moto (on its own) on the conditions of prisons during coronavirus pandemic.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appointed amicus curiae by the top court, said the prisoners who have been released according to the guidelines framed by the High-Powered Committees in various states are stranded because they have no means to reach their homes.

Attorney General K K Venugopal said it is very unjust that the prisoners who are released have been left stranded in absence of any transportation.

“In these circumstances, we consider it appropriate to direct that Union of India shall ensure that all the prisoners having been released by the States/Union Territories are not left stranded and they are provided transportation to reach their homes or given the option to stay in temporary shelter homes for the  period  of lockdown,” the bench said.

It added that for this purpose, the Centre may issue appropriate directions under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 or any other law for the time being in force.

“We further direct that the States/Union Territories shall ensure through Directors 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. Ordered accordingly,” the bench said.

The top court had on March 23, directed all states and UTs to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus.

It said overcrowding of prisons is a matter of serious concern, particularly in the present context of COVID–19.

In regard to the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it has become imperative to ensure that the spread of coronavirus within the prisons is controlled, the court had said.

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