Almost all prisons in J&K UT decongested as per SC directives

Over 110 more convicts, others released; number crosses 270
Release of PSA detainees left at discretion of Govt

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 21: Almost all the prisons in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have been decongested in order to contain Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) with the release of over 270 convicts, under-trials and Public Safety Act detainees in the light of the directions issued by the Supreme Court.
Now, only those cases will be considered by the High Powered Committee which will be recommended by the Prisons Department in minor relaxation of Rules but keeping in mind all the important aspects.
The High Powered Committee headed by Justice Rajesh Bindal, Judge of the Common High Court for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh, and comprised of Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department and V K Singh, Director General of Police (Prisons) was constituted in pursuance to the directions issued by a bench of Apex Court headed by Chief Justice of India Justice S A Bobde on March 23, 2020.
The Supreme Court had ordered all the States and Union Territories to set-up high level panels to consider releasing convicts and under-trials prisoners in order to decongest the prisons to contain COVID-19.
Reliable sources told EXCELSIOR that almost all the prisons in the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory have been decongested strictly as per the directions issued by the Apex Court. There was no major congestion problem in the prisons in Jammu province and the same was noticed only in respect of certain jails in the Kashmir valley.
But the High Powered Committee by ordering release on patrol and interim bail of the convicts and under-trials has ensured decongestion wherever it was prevalent, sources said while disclosing that more than 270 convicts, under-trials and Public Safety Act detainees have been released ever since the issuance of directions by the Supreme Court.
As per the recommendations made by Justice Rajesh Bindal headed Committee in its last meeting held on April 18, 2020, eight more convicts have been released while as process for release of six is going on and will be completed within next few days. With this, 18 convicts have been given parole so far and six will get shortly.
Similarly, 45 more under-trials were released on interim bail raising the total number of under-trials having been given the benefit of the guidelines laid down by the Apex Court to 152. Till the last meeting 109 under-trials were granted interim bails by the courts. The number of PSA detainees who have been released till date has also crossed more than 100 as few days back it was just 25.
As far as convicts are concerned, special parole of eight weeks has been granted which is extendable for another eight weeks if the lockdown by the Government continues and subject to the good conduct of the released persons, sources informed.
The under-trial prisoners have been released on interim bail of 60 days extendable for another period in case the circumstances so demand that too on furnishing of surety and personal bonds.
“Now, the High Powered Committee will consider only those cases which in the opinion of the Director General of Prisons can be considered in slight relaxation of Rules but keeping in view all other important aspects”, sources informed.
About the PSA detainees, sources said, “in its meeting held on March 31, 2020, the High Powered Committee had opined that powers to release such detainees should be exercised by the Government as they were booked under this stringent law only on the recommendations of the District Magistrates concerned and their opinion should form the basis for their release”.
They disclosed that around 300 PSA detainees are lodged in different jails outside the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the administration is in constant touch with the authorities of such prisons to address their health concerns in the light of the situation prevailing due to COVID-10.
Quoting some cases where convicts have been granted parole keeping in view the directions of the Supreme Court as well as on humanitarian grounds, sources said that 84 years old woman from Jammu province, who was awarded life imprisonment several years back, has been released on parole, adding keeping in view her age it was felt imperative to allow her to stay with her family for some-time.
Similarly, a 60 year old woman from Kashmir valley, who was awarded 10 years imprisonment in the year 2014, has been granted parole on the same grounds.

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