Punjab to release 25% inmates to decongest jails

The prisoners convicted and facing trial under POCSO Act, Section 376, 379-B of IPC, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act, for acid attack and foreign nationals will continue to remain inside the jails.




The Punjab Government is set to release convicted prisoners on parole and grant interim bail to under-trials for six weeks, following approval of the high-powered committee constituted on orders of the Supreme Court. Punjab government in a statement on Thursday said that it going to release 6000 prisoners – 25.5 per cent of total inmates in state’s jails — as per the criteria drawn up by the panel.

Punjab has 23,488 prisoners in its jails as on March 26. The committee met on Wednesday and approved the criteria to be used for release of prisoners. The meeting was held under chairmanship of Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, who is Executive Chairman of Punjab Legal Services Authority. The minutes of the meeting were forwarded to all concerned agencies for implementation on Thursday.

The prisoners convicted and facing trial under POCSO Act, Section 376, 379-B of IPC, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act, for acid attack and foreign nationals will continue to remain inside the jails.

The convicts and under-trials, in cases with imposed or prescribed sentences of 10 years of imprisonment or less, with health conditions like chronic diabetes, HIV, serious neurological issues, chronic lung disease, severe asthma, severe heart condition, and pregnant women will also be considered for release on parole. While the convicts suffering from “simple depression” will not be considered, the prisoners under the above categories will be released on confirmation of their disease from the Jail Medical Officer with further certification by the SMO or CMO.

All prisoners in custody under Section 107/151 CrPC (related to preventive detention) are to be immediately released on bail by the concerned Executive Magistrate.

Convicted prisoners

The prisoners who have been convicted under the NDPS Act and sentenced to three years or less will be considered for release on parole.

Those convicted under all other cases will be released if they have been sentenced to seven years or less and if they have no pending under-trial cases. The convicts sentenced to 7 years imprisonment but with at most two under-trial cases will also be considered for parole if they have availed last parole peacefully and are on bail in the under-trial cases. Under this category, the convicts aged above 65 years of age will be considered even if their sentence is up to 10 years. Those 65-year-olds with up to two under-trial cases will be considered if they are on bail in those cases and have availed last parole peacefully.

While the convicts already on parole will get an extension of parole for six weeks, the committee has also recommended that all the applications for parole pending before District Magistrates be processed within two days or be returned to the Jail Superintendents.

Under-trials

For the accused, whose trials are pending, the committee has recommended that the chairperson of the District Legal Services Authority — the District and Session Judge, will depute two judicial officers for each jail in the district and hold courts within the jail premises for as many days necessary to decide the bail applications.

The accused facing charges under the NDPS Act will be considered for release only if the recovery is of small quantity. The other under-trials, who will be considered for interim bail, include those facing one case in which the prescribed sentence is seven years or less. Those under-trials with two pending cases will also be considered for interim bail in case the maximum punishment in both cases is seven years or less. The under-trials aged 65 years will get interim bail as per the same criteria even if the prescribed sentence in their cases is upto 10 years.

The committee also recommended that judicial magistrates will consider the cases of the prisoners, who are facing charges of theft (Section 379 IPC and not Section 379-B), Sections 324, 325, 498-A, 406 and 420 IPC and cases under Excise Act.

WhatsApp Mulaqat

The committee also has recommended that the jail authorities make available the ‘video mulaqaat’ facility for the prisoners through WhatsApp video call, in absence of the physical meeting with the prisoners, under supervision of the responsible jail officials. Though the government had earlier decided that eMulakaat facility will be used, but it was found to be cumbersome for the prisoners and their families.

The committee also directed the chairperson of the DLSA in each district to either personally visit the jails every alternate day or depute a senior judicial officer to interact with the prisoners to work towards maintaining order inside the jails.

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