COVID-19| SC refuses to pass blanket order for release of prisoners above 50 years of age on parole

Supreme Court: A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L Nageswara Rao has refused to pass any blanket order directing the Centre and states to consider granting parole or interim bail to prisoners above 50 years of age as also to those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory problem and other life threatening diseases in view of coronavirus pandemic. The Court said it doesn’t know what the government thinks about the issue but in the court’s view it should be case by case.

“We will not pass any blanket order. You make an individual representation before the government about your case.”

The court said it was allowing the petitioner in-person advocate Amit Sahni to withdraw the petition with liberty to advise the individual prisoners, who are suffering from any diseases to make a representation to the authorities for their release.

“The petitioner in person seeks leave to withdraw this writ petition with liberty to advise individual prisoners who are suffering from any serious ailment to make a representation to the authorities for their release. Such a decision can be taken case by case. We see no justification in passing a general order.”

Sahni said in the plea that as per World Health Organisation (WHO), older persons and those suffering from pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and lung diseases can be seriously affected by the virus, also called Covid-19. The plea said the court has already taken cognisance on its own about overcrowding in jails following the virus outbreak but the issue of vulnerability of certain category of persons including those above 50 years was not brought to its notice earlier.

On March 23, the court had directed all the states and Union Territories to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials for offences entailing up to seven-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Sahni, in his plea, has said that persons over 50 years of age are “at more risk” if affected with coronavirus.

“Persons with diabetes, respiratory problems, renal disease and other life threatening illness are also prone to Covid-19 and impact of the same can be severe in such persons,”

It said since the issue was not brought up before the apex court earlier, no directions were passed regarding jail inmates above 50 years of age and those having medical conditions and the authorities were not considering them for release on parole or interim bail.

On March 16, the court had taken suo motu cognisance of overcrowding of prisons across the country and said it is difficult for jail inmates to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

[Amit Sahni v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 359, order dated 07.04.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

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