Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ. and Alok Kumar Verma, J., have been hearing a series of petitions after a PIL which was filed on 03-05-2021 regarding the submission of a report with regard to the number of jails, the population of each jail in both the categories of under-trial prisoners and convicted prisoners, the number of the prisoners, who have come down with Covid19, the availability of the medical facilities for dealing with those, who are suffering from Covid-19, the number of staff, which is equally affected by Covid-19, the facilities available for quarantining the affected persons, the medical facilities available within the jail, the availability of oxygen tanks, oxygen beds and ventilators, if any, the availability of protective gears such as PPE kits, masks and gloves. The I.G. Prisons, was directed to be present before this Court on 06-05-2021.

On 06-05-2021 the I.G. prisons, informed the Court that there were 6,647 inmates, who were housed in different jails throughout the State out of which 4,474 were under-trials prisoners, while 2173 were convicted. He further furnished all the information sought to by the Court. He informed the Court in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Suo Motu In RE: Contagion of Covid 19 Virus In Prisons, W.P. (C) No. 1 of 2020, a High Powered Committee was constituted by the Uttarakhand State Legal Services Authority by order dated 26-03-2020. The Court after perusing the information submitted had given certain direction:

  • The Jail Department and the Principal Secretary, Home / Prison, respondent no. 1, are directed to ensure that the number of the prisoners being inoculated is drastically increased. In fact, since most of the prisoners would be above the age of eighteen years, the inoculation of prisoners must be ensured by the State Government as expeditiously as possible, and preferably within one month from the date of this order.
  • When a prisoner is being released, he must be subjected to Rapid Antigen Test /RT-PCR test in order to ensure that he does not leave the jail premises as a Covid-19 positive case. For, there are great chances that such a prisoner, who is being released, may carry the virus with him, and may infect his family, in particular, and the society, in general.
  • The High Powered Committee is directed to convene its meeting within a period of two weeks, and to review the cases of under-trial prisoners and the case of those, who have been convicted for offences punishable for less than seven years. It shall make its recommendations within two weeks from its meeting, since there is a possibility that this pandemic may continue for many months to come and since there are reports which show that India may face the third wave of Covid-19, which may continue even in the next year. The High Powered Committee is directed to meet once every month, and to review the cases of the present inmates, and to make its necessary recommendations.
  • The learned I.G. Prison is directed to inform the Chairman, Bar Council of Uttarakhand about the existence of the “E-Mulakaat” portal. Furthermore, he is directed to ensure that sufficient hardware and software is available in the jails so as to permit the prisoners to converse with their counsel through the “EMulakaat” portal.
  • The learned counsel for the State is directed to file a detailed report with regard to the implementation of the directions issued by this Court within a period of three weeks.

The case was next heard on 14-06-2021.

As per the directions issued by the Court on 06-05-2021 a short counter-affidavit had been filed by I.G. Prisons, Uttarakhand according to which 2813 inmates have been vaccinated so far. It was informed that the remaining inmates shall be vaccinated in a systematic manner, and at a rapid speed. However, as the vaccines were not presently available, inoculation programme is progressing slowly. The Committee considered parole of 106 convicts, and interim bail application for 685 under-trial prisoners. Out of 106 convicts, 92 were granted parole by the Committee. With regard to the E-Mulakaat, the I.G. submitted that all the jail Superintendents have been directed to convene the Video Conferencing through E-Mulakat, or through any other portal.

The Court while disposing of the petition held that the directions issued by this Court had been duly complied with. Hence, no further direction needed to be issued by this Court.[Omveer Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 561, decided on 14-06-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Counsel for the appellant: M. Ajay Veer Pundir

Counsel for respondent 1 & 3: Mr C.S. Rawat

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