Corruption Free India Urges Supreme Court to Protect Prisoners From COVID-19 by Releasing Them Out

NGO CFI writes to CJI seeking intervention for releasing undertrials and those who are convicted for petty crimes

New Delhi, India--(Newsfile Corp. - April 6, 2020) -  ​​New Delhi based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Corruption Free India (CFI) has urged the Supreme Court to direct States' Prisons' Head or Director General of Prisons to strictly implement the apex court's order to bail out undertrials and those convicted prisoners except the Once's Convicted for Death in Prison and Death Sentences. The Supreme Court would be taking up a suo-motu writ petition - CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN PRISONS - on April 17. The Organisation has urged the Supreme Court to consider certain true facts while hearing the writ petition.

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In a letter to the Chief Justice of India, Advocate Pramod S Tiwari, President & Trustee Corruption Free India said, "In view of surging cases of COVID-19 in India, lives of prisoners are at stake by not releasing them till date despite the Current Situation is Violating the Article 21 of the Constitution which protects life and personal liberty. Several states have put prisoners' life at risk by being Judgmental/Detrimental on who all should be released and who should remain inside the prisons."

The Constitution has given equal rights to every citizen and if a citizen is accused of any crime, that doesn't means their rights can be curtailed. Hence, the CFI requested the CJI should take this on account and release all prisoners across the country instead of leaving the Decision Making with the High-Level Committee of the States. The CFI accused that the High-Level Committees have made a mockery of the lives of people who would be punished with death sentences due to the global outbreak and cascading impact of the COVID-19 on the lives of citizens languishing in prisons. "We have prayed that a direction should be given to the top Jail Authorities including DG Prisons across India and no decision making powers should be given to the High-Level Committees since these Committees' credibility is questionable. We have instances in Rajasthan where the Committee violated norms and prepared a list of 1328 Prisoners of their own choice. Powerful and rich prisoners of the state found their name in the list," said Tiwari, adding that even in Maharashtra High-Level Committee violated the norms.

The Maharashtra Committee, according to CFI, has classified some prisoners under sections with punishment up to 7 years should not be included. The above said directions shall not apply to the under-trial prisoners who are booked for serious economic offences/bank scams and offences under Special Acts (other than IPC) like MCOC, PMLA, MPID, NDPS, UAPA, etc. (which provide for additional restriction on grant of bail, in addition to those under CRPC and also presently to foreign nationals and under-trial prisoners having their place of residence out of the Maharashtra). CFI alleged that this order is biased and violation of the order to release prisoners by the Bench of the Chief Justice of India.

The CFI emphasised that since these high-level committees have violated the Supreme Court's directive, hence during the hearing of Writ Petition they should be charged with Contempt of the Court. In the letter to the CJI, the organisation also pointed out despite the SC Order, passed on March 23, 2020 by the Bench, the majority of the states have not released the prisoners across the country and this amounts to contempt of the Court.

Meanwhile, jail authorities have expressed their views to the media and said prisoners are safer in prisons. Mr. NRK Reddy, Director General of Prisons, Rajasthan reportedly said, "Prisoners are more safe in prisons since the jail administration is giving them food and medical facilities and if they are released then how will they go to their homes during the lockdown."

The lives of prisoners in Rajasthan are at stake and an Affidavit should be filed by the states to ensure that the Responsibility of Lives is with the Jail Administration and if deaths occur due to their negligence or lack of medical facilities and lack of immunity rich food, they should held accountable. Moreover protecting prisoners with unhygienic masks would be difficult. The CFI also highlighted the lack of Medical Facilities in Prisons and Negligence by the Prison Doctors which have been widely reported in various petitions.

"This is a time when the Judiciary, Central & State Governments should have come together to safeguard lives of millions of prisoners across India and we have urged the CJI to prosecute members of High-Level Committee of Jails & State Prisons Heads," the President, CFI said.

The letter to CJI requested that all prisoners who are under trials should be released with immediate effect except prisoners who are convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment until their last breath and death sentences should be kept isolated in prisons.

Adv. Pramod S Tiwari
President & Trustee
Corruption Free India (NGO)
A100, Amar Colony A Block, Block A, Amar Colony, Lajpat Nagar 4, New Delhi, Delhi 110024
(M) +919810357506

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