Delhi High Court sends 2,318 undertrials back to jail

Last Modified Friday, 23 October 2020 (13:49 IST)
New Delhi:The on Friday sent back to 2,318 currently out on bail, directing them to surrender at Tihar Jail in a phased manner between November 2 and 13.
On March 25, the same court had passed an order after taking took suo motu cognizance of the outbreak of Covid-19, that in all matters pending  before this court and courts subordinate to this court, wherein  such interim orders issued were subsisting as on 16.03.2020  and expired or will expire thereafter, the same shall stand automatically extended till 15.05.2020 or until further orders, except where any orders to the contrary  have been passed by the Supreme Court in  any particular matter, during the intervening period.
Delhi Police via Deputy Commissioner of Police, Legal Cell, PHQ, submitted an applicant to modify the past orders and to pass necessary directions. The Standing  Counsel for Govt. of NCT of Delhi Rahul Mehra was Special Public Prosecutor representing the applicant seeking modification, Amit Prasad, argued the case.
After seeking clarification from the Tihar Jail about the outbreak of the pandemic within the jail premises, the Delhi High Court was obliged to give no further extension of interim bail to 2318 undertrials accused of heinous crime. Jail authorities were asked four pointed questions by the court: How many persons in jail are presently infected/suffering from Covid-19? How many persons involved in heinous crimes are  granted the interim bail? How many persons involved in minor crimes are granted  "interim bail" and how many persons are granted interim bail by the Delhi  High Court?" 
The court was informed that the "overall capacity of all the prisoners is about 10,000 and as on date and they have 15,900 prisoners inside the jails." Further, "2,318 undertrials involved in heinous crimes were  granted interim bail by the District Courts, which have been extended from  time to time on the strength of orders dated 25.03.2020 and subsequent  orders passed by this court." Further, " 2,907 undertrials involved in minor crimes were granted bail as per the recommendations of the High-Power Committee and 356 prisoners were granted interim bail by Delhi High Courts."
Special Public Prosecutor Amit  Parsad highlighted the fact that the "undertrials in (Delhi) Riots Cases, who were  granted interim bails on humanitarian grounds for short periods are covered under the ambit of the orders passed by this court and their interim bails are  extended from time to time. About 20 such accused are on interim bail at this time." 
On the other hand, Rahul Mehra, opposing the application, argued that Covid-19 pandemic" is still prevailing and the earlier orders passed by this court need  not be modified." 
The bench of  Chief Justice Soddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh, disregarding the contention of the standing counsel of NCT of Delhi, Rahul Mahra, came to the conclusion "since there is no spread of Covid-19 in the jails and out of about 16,000 prisoners only 3 are infected and they have been segregated and are admitted  in hospital, we deem it proper to modify our order dated 25th March, 2020"
While instructing the jail authorities to make all necessary arrangements to ensure  surrender of the prisoners adhering to the guidelines issued by the Government Authorities from time to time to contain the spread of Covid-19, the bench observed, "2318 undertrials involved in heinous crimes, who were granted interim bail by the District  Courts, there shall be no further extension of interim bails.

However, to facilitate their surrender before jail authorities and to avoid any inconvenience being caused to the jail authorities during surrender of a large number of undertrials, it is ordered that the surrender shall take place in the phased manner." The court ordered surrender over a period of 13 days, from 2 to 13 of November, 2020.(UNI)