New Delhi: Amid the Covid-19 crisis, jails across the country are set to release at least 34,000 prisoners, both undertrials and convicts, on “interim bail” and “emergency parole” in order to reduce overcrowding in prisons, ThePrint has learnt.
These prisoners, however, will be under constant watch of jail authorities and will be tracked on a daily basis by special committees to ensure that they do not escape, sources told ThePrint.
The decision to release the prisoners was made after the Supreme Court on 23 March ordered all states to consider releasing some inmates on parole to reduce overcrowding.
The apex court had also ordered each state to constitute a high-powered committee, in consultation with the State Legal Service Authority, to decide on the matter.
Since prisons come under the state governments, each state has framed its own rules on how many prisoners will be given parole, prisoners under which crime will be released and how to track them after their release.
While Maharashtra and UP have announced the release of 11,000 prisoners each, West Bengal and Delhi have announced the release of 3,000 prisoners each. Punjab is set to release over 6,000 prisoners.
How prisoners will be tracked post release
All states have come up with measures to ensure that those released on parole are constantly tracked to ensure that they do not escape.
While Delhi’s Tihar Jail authorities have turned to local police stations for the job, in West Bengal, a detailed list of the inmates to be released is being prepared. UP has formed a state monitoring committee to keep track of them.
“It is important to keep a watch on those released; so we will keep the concerned police station in the loop,” a Tihar official said. “We have asked each area SHO to keep us posted on the movement of the inmates.
“In fact a personnel from the local police station, where the inmate’s residence is located, will keep visiting them to check on them,” he added.
“Moreover, we are not releasing hardened criminals. Those getting released may not have propensity to jump parole,” he said.
In West Bengal, prison authorities have decided to chart out a list of inmates with their address, phone numbers, details of friends and family. The list will then be sent to the respective police stations.
“It is a conditional parole or bail,” a jail official from West Bengal said.
“The released inmates cannot change their address and cannot move from the place they live in. They have to go to the police stations regularly to register their attendance,” he said.
“We have also activated our staff in some of the localities, and instructions have been sent to the police station concerned to maintain vigil,” he added.
Uttar Pradesh is moving with extra caution. It has formed a state-level monitoring committee to keep a watch on released criminals.
“Not just that, all undertrials and convicts will be dropped to their homes by jail authorities,” an Uttar Pradesh government official said.
Prisoners having jail term upto seven years to be released
The Supreme Court has suggested to the states that only prisoners who have been charged with or convicted of offences with jail terms of up to seven years should be considered for parole.
Considering this, most states including Maharashtra, UP, Kerala, West Bengal and Delhi, have kept this as a base criteria for the release of prisoners. Some states, however, added a few provisions and put more filters, based on their respective requirements.
Delhi’s Tihar Jail has decided that undertrials, charged with a single crime whose punishment is of seven years or less and who have spent three months in jail, will be considered for interim bail to start with.
A special measure of an emergency parole has also been introduced by the Delhi government.
“The Delhi government has issued a notification introducing a new provision of emergency parole of two months in emergency situations, in addition to the regular parole available to the convicts,” the Tihar official said.
“Those convicts who are already out on furlough or parole will also get this eight weeks of emergency parole,” he added.
In the last two days, 400 undertrials were released on interim bail while 60 convicts were let out on emergency parole from Tihar jail, the official said.
In Kolkata, authorities have decided that prisoners charged under POCSO, NDPS sections or those convicted or undertrials for murder, rioting or crimes against women will not be released.
Similarly, in UP, authorities have decided that repeat offenders will not be released.
Ones with ‘clean jail record’ given priority
Several states have also decided that prisoners with “a clean record” will be given priority, to apply for parole.
The “clean record” refers to prisoners without any disciplinary complaints or poor remarks by jail superintendents.
“The ones with a clean jail record will be given priority, while filing for payroll. Inmates, who are charged under POCSO, NDPS sections or convicted or undertrial for murder or rioting or crime against women will not be released,” a jail official from West Bengal said.
“We are primarily releasing people who were arrested for white collar crime or economic offences. Apart from that, other less serious cases will be considered as well,” he added.
Judges hearing and granting bail are doing that inside the prison complex. “This is done to ensure that the courts are not crowded,” a jail official from Uttar Pradesh government said.
(With inputs from Madhuparna Das, Prashant Srivastava)