The AAP government informed the Delhi High Court on Monday that it has decided to decongest prisons to check the spread of coronavirus by providing convicts the options of special parole and furlough.
The Delhi government told a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad that it was going to amend its prison rules to provide these options.
The submission was made by Delhi government's additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal who said a notification would be issued within a day to amend the prison rules to include the two new provisions.
Taking note of the submission, the bench directed the Delhi government to take steps during the day to implement what it has proposed and disposed of a plea moved by four lawyers seeking decongesting of the prisons in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bench disposed of the matter on the submission made by the government and did not examine the matter further, saying a similar issue has been taken up by the Supreme Court on its own.
According to the yet-to-be-notified decision of the Home Department of the Delhi government, one of the rules would provide for a 60-day parole in one spell in case of emergent situations like an epidemic or a natural disaster or any other situation which warrants easing of the inmate population.
The other rule would provide for temporary facility of a special furlough "to such category of prisoners and for such number of days as may be specified in the order, in the event of emergent situations like an epidemic or a natural disaster or any other situation which warrants easing of the inmate population", Aggarwal told the bench.
These provisions would be available for eligible the prisoners who have served minimum one year of the sentence awarded to them, he told the court.
The government was also contemplating reducing the undertrial prisoners' population by expediting their bail process or by granting interim bail on personal bond to those booked for offences where punishment is seven years or less and the inmate has completed minimum three months in jail.
Aggarwal said the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) and the District Judge concerned would be holding a meeting to work out the modalities.
Taking note of the submission, the court asked that the meeting be held expeditiously.
In India, according to the Health Ministry, there are 415 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection with around 29 of them in Delhi. At least seven people have died in the country due to the virus.
Another plea, by two other lawyers, seeking steps to prevent spread of COVID-19 in prisons was listed before a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar.
It, however, was adjourned to March 30 as one of the judges on the bench was on leave.
The second petition has sought directions to the jail authorities to keep new undertrial prisoners in a separate ward, maintain adequate hygiene, carry out medical checkups and treatment, create isolation wards and make arrangements for detection and reporting of coronavirus infections, if any.