Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Pankaj Bhandari, J. while addressing the present petition, held that,

“…at the time of complete lockdown the bail applications, Appeals under SC/ST Act, applications for suspension of sentence cannot be considered to be of extreme urgency.”

Bail applications, Appeals under SC/ST Act, Revisions and Appeals with applications for suspension of sentence were listed in the category of urgent matters.

When the entire country except essential services is under closure, whether the above would fall within the category of extremely urned matters is the question raised.

Rajasthan High Court had issued notification with regard to listing of only urgent matters dated 24-03-2020.

Criminal Appeals under SC/ST Act pertaining to bails effecting service on the complainant before passing any order in favor of the accused is the mandate of the SC/ST Act.

In the present lockdown condition even sending notice through Police personnel may pose risk of spreading COVID-19 as even police personnels have been quarantined.

There is complete closure of public transport hence it cannot and should not be expected from the police personnel that they would leave the emergent task given under the “the Act” to effect service on the complaint.

Bench also observed, that any order passed in favour of petitioner or appellant would be an order adverse to Complainant/State and presently when Lawyers are abstaining from work on account of call given by Bar Council of Rajasthan, Complainant would be deprived of his right to engage a Lawyer and oppose the bail application/ application for suspension of sentence.

Further, the bench stated that, Release of an accused or convict at the cost of breaching order of lockdown and at the cost of risking lives of many cannot be considered to fall within the category of “extremely urgent matter.”

It was also noted from the report of DG Prisons that there is no overcrowding of prisons and regular checkups of the inmates is being done.

Thus, in view of the above, Registrar Judicial is directed not to list Bails, appeals applications for suspension of sentence in Appeals and Revisions in the category of “extreme urgent matters”.[Shahrukh v. State of Rajasthan,  2020 SCC OnLine Raj 400, decided on 31-03-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ on asked the counsel of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam, to approach the Delhi High Court for his interim bail in wake of the coronavirus lockdown. The Court refused to express any views on the merits of the case and asked Michel’s counsel to approach the High Court for the same.

It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court has directed all States/Union Territories to constitute a High Powered Committee to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate.

Michel had approached the Supreme Court for interim bail in light of prevalent conditions owing to COVID-19 in the country. The interim bail  has also been pending with Delhi High Court but has not been taken up for consideration. Michel was earlier directed to wait for the decision of a High-Powered Committee, which was set-up by the Delhi government to decongest the jails in the national capital. However, Michel’s case was not considered for grant of bail by the committee. Thereafter, the British national approached the Supreme Court seeking interim bail.

Michel, in his bail plea, claimed that he falls within the class of people more vulnerable to coronavirus and his health condition is very critical and incompatible with the current prison status under the COVID-19 crisis.

Michel was extradited from Dubai in 2018 and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in connection with alleged irregularities in the chopper deal. While the CBI is probing his alleged role as a ‘middleman’ in the deal, the ED is investigating money laundering charges against him.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of SA Bobe, CJ and LN Rao, J has taken suo moto cognisance of overcrowding and infrastructure of prisons across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and has issued a notice to the Director General, Prison, and chief secretary of all states and union territories seeking their response by March 20 on steps taken for prevention of COVID-19. The court also asked all states and union territories to depute an officer on March 23 who could assist the court in the matter.

The bench also took suo moto cognisance of conditions in remand homes where juveniles in conflict with law are lodged. It observed that some states have taken steps for the pandemic but there are some states which have not taken appropriate measures.

The court also cautioned that mass gathering is a big problem and it can become a centre for the spread of coronavirus. The court also said it will issue reasons on why it has taken suo moto cognisance of the matter.

“there is an imminent need to take steps on an urgent basis to prevent the contagion of COVID-19 virus in our prisons. If prisoners are tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, immediate measures have to be taken for their quarantining and medical treatment.”

Stating that prisons can become fertile breeding grounds for incubation of COVID-19, the Court noticed that it was difficult to maintain social distancing as advised in places like prisons that are overcrowded. It said,

“Like most other viral diseases, the susceptibility of COVID-19 is greater in over-crowded places, mass gatherings, etc. Studies indicate that contagious viruses such as COVID-19 virus proliferate in closed spaces such as prisons. Studies also establish that prison inmates are highly prone to contagious viruses. The rate of ingress and egress in prisons is very high, especially since persons (accused, convicts, detenues etc.) are brought to the prisons on a daily basis. Apart from them, several correctional officers and other prison staff enter the prisons regularly, and so do visitors (kith and kin of prisoners) and lawyers. Therefore, there is a high risk of transmission of COVID-19 virus to the prison inmates.”

The Court also took note of the measures being taken by some States like Kerala and Delhi, where isolation cells have been set up to admit all the new prisoners before moving them to regular prison. Any prisoners suffering from COVID-19 symptoms will also be moved to these cells.

The Court, hence, issued notice in order to deal with the present health crisis arising out of Coronavirus (COVID 19) in the country, and further to suggest immediate measures which should be adopted for the medical assistance to the prisioners in all jails and the juveniles lodged in the Remand Homes and for protection of their health and welfare.

There are 1339 prisons in India, and approximately 4,66,084 inmates inhabit such prisons. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the occupancy rate of Indian prisons is at 117.6%, and in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, the occupancy rate is as high as 176.5% and 157.3% respectively.

According to the Union Health Ministry, there are 114 cases in India so far, including two people who died in Delhi and Karnataka and 17 foreigners. Ten patients have been discharged.

[IN RE : CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN PRISONS,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 320, order dated 16.03.2020]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  The Bench of Madan B. Lokur and R.K. Agrawal, JJ showed it’s distress over the conditions prevalent in the prisons and said that even though this Court has held on several occasions that prisoners both under trials and convicts have certain fundamental rights and human rights, little or no attention is being paid in this regard by the States and some Union Territories including the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Stating that certainly fundamental rights and human rights of people, however they may be placed, cannot be ignored only because of their adverse circumstances, the Court issued the following directions:

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India directed to expedite the preparation of the Manual and ensure that it is ready positively on or before 30th November, 2016, considering the fact that more than sufficient time has elapsed but the Manual for juveniles in custody has not yet been prepared.
  • Noticing that not a single State or Union Territory has bothered to prepare a Plan of Action in relation to overcrowding of prisons, the States and the Inspector General of Prisons are directed to prepare a viable Plan of Action within the next six months and in any event by 31st March, 2017.
  • The Union of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs is directed to obtain the status of compliance of the orders passed on 5th February 2016 and 6th May, 2016 as on 30th September, 2016. The information should be collated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and shared with the learned Additional Solicitor General and the learned Amicus so that even the rights of prisoners, whether convicts or under trials are given due importance.

The Court said that unless due importance is given to the fundamental rights and human rights of the people, the right to life and the right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution will have no meaning. [In re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons (II), 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1090, decided on 03.10.2016]