New Delhi: The Madhya Pradesh high court on Monday directed a High Powered Committee to consider certain suggestions and make recommendations in connection with the release of prisoners lodged in different jails in the state, LiveLaw reported.
On Monday, the court was told that despite the recommendations of the committee, the number of prisoners in jails across the state, which was 45,582 (on May 7), in comparison with the total capacity of 28,675, was not going to be substantially reduced.
The bench consisting of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq & Justice Atul Sreedharan was hearing the argument in a suo moto writ petition filed in view of the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases during the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
It was therefore submitted that the High Powered Committee ought to consider releasing all such convicts on parole, who have either served one-third of their substantive sentences or in case of a sentence of life imprisonment, have completed incarceration of seven years or more.
Chander Uday Singh, Senior Counsel and Sankalp Kochar, amicus Curiae, also suggested that such under-trial prisoners on interim bail, who were facing trial for offences exclusively triable by the court of magistrate – regardless of the outer limit of the sentence – be released.
The High Powered Committee was also asked to consider releasing all women prisoners, both convicts and under-trial, regardless of the offence for which they have been convicted and the sentence awarded to them.
The court then directed that data under all three categories be provided to the committee, which shall in turn convene its meeting and consider the suggestions put forth while giving its recommendation.
The senior counsel and amicus curiae submitted that despite the directions issued by the apex court in Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar, the police in Madhya Pradesh were not following the guidelines. In response, the advocate general submitted that he would seek instructions in the matter to find out whether the Director-General of Police had issued general instructions to all police stations to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court
The court then directed the DGP to immediately issue fresh directions to all police stations in the state to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar. The court also said that if any arrest had been made without adherence to the aforesaid guidelines, the accused would be entitled to directly apply to the court of competent jurisdiction for regular bail on this ground alone.
The court further asked the Director of the State Judicial Academy to organise virtual programs, in a cluster of districts or division-wise, in batches, for sensitising police officers as well as judicial magistrates.
Recently, the apex court, taking note of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, said that authorities should not make arrests in violation of the guidelines laid down in Arnesh Kumar, which had held that arrests should be an exception in cases where offences are punishable with less than seven years imprisonment.