About 7,000 prisoners may be granted interim bail or parole to decongest overcrowded prisons in Jharkhand state, that is battling a second surge of Covid-19 pandemic in the wake of a recent Supreme Court order, a top official said. An order has been issued to jail superintendents by the High- Powered Committee to shortlist prisoners on the basis of a directive by the Supreme Court to release on parole or interim bail, prisoners and the under-trials for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, Inspector General Prisons, Jharkhand, Birendra Bhushan told PTI. "If the courts approve, in all there are about 7,000 prisoners who may get interim bail. If this happens our jails will run as per capacity," Bhushan said. There are 21,046 prisoners including 15,900 undertrials lodged in the state's thirty prisons that have a capacity to house 16,700 inmates. A high-powered committee that comprises Justice AK Singh of Jharkhand High Court, Principal Secretary Home Rajiv Arun Ekka and IG Prisons Birendra Bhushan had met on May 17 to review the situation and had asked Jail Superintendent to identify eligible prisoners under the criteria. "Once the jail superintendents will provide the list of shortlisted prisoners, their names will be given to the District Legal Service Authority ... granting bail will be the role of judges and courts ... There may be about 7,000 such prisoners and in case their bails are approved, the jails will be less crowded," Bhushan said. Ninety days parole can be sanctioned to eligible prisoners while the period for those already on parole can be extended. He said the exact number of such prisoners will be known in a day or two. Jharkhand has 30 jails out of which 7 are Central jails, 15 district jails, one open jail and remaining are small sub- jails. Apart from shortlisting the eligible inmates, an exercise is also underway to rationalise the number of prisoners in view of the pandemic by shifting prisoners from overcrowded jails to less crowded jails, he said. Taking note of the "unprecedented surge" in COVID-19 cases, the Supreme Court on May 8 had moved to decongest prisons and ordered the immediate release of prisoners who were granted bail or parole last year. Observing that the decongestion of prisons housing around 4 lakh inmates across the country is a matter concerning "health and right to life of" prisoners and police personnel, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said all those who were allowed to go out on bail in March last year by the high- powered committees of states and Union Territories (UTs) be granted the same relief without any reconsideration to avoid delay. "Further we direct that, those inmates who were granted parole, pursuant to our earlier orders, should be again granted parole for a period of 90 days in order to tide over the pandemic," the bench, also having Justices L Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant had said in its order. The top court had taken note of its March 23, 2020, order by which it had directed all states and UTs to constitute high- powered committee (HPC) to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and the under trials for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
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