[COVID-19] Calcutta HC Directs Authorities To Release Inmates And Under-Trials For A Period Of Three Months

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The Calcutta High Court recently constituted a committee to issue a report regarding the measures being taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Keeping the instructions provided by the Apex Court on 23rd March as well as the Calcutta High Court, the High-Powered Committee met on 27th of March 2020 and suggested to release Inmates and Under Trials who are eligible.

The Court had ordered that the release of eligible inmates be decided on a case by case basis by the Committee. As per the instructions, the report was submitted on the 31st March of 2020.

The committee has detailed the plan of action along with taking note of the cases that are eligible for parole or interim bail.

The meeting was chaired by Hon’ble Executive Chairman, State Legal Services Authority (SLASA), West Bengal Justice Dipankar Datta. Mr Adip Kumar was present on behalf of the Department of Correctional Administration. Peeyush Pandey, Additional Director General and Inspector General of Correctional Services, WB was also present in the meeting along with the Registrar General of the Calcutta High Court, Rai Chattopadhyay. SLSA’s Member Secretary Smt. Durga Khaitan also attended.

The Proposed Recommendations to Release Inmates And Under Trials

As per Annexure A and Annexure B, the Committee recommended the release of 1017 convicts and 2059 undertrial inmates for 3 months unless any contrary order is passed by the appropriate authority in any particular case. The applications for parole and bail can be moved through correctional home authorities with the help of District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) before the Courts concerned.

The medical condition of each inmate set for bail or parole will be checked at the time of release.

The inmates who are medically fit will be released.

The under-trial must provide his complete current address in the personal bond and to the Correctional Home Authority.

The under-trial is not allowed to leave the address during the period of interim bail.

Once the period of interim bail expires, the under-trial has to surrender before the Court.

During the period of interim bail, the under-trial has to be accessible to the Officer in Charge of the

The Concerned Courts can release the inmates on personal bond as they may have difficulties in furnishing sureties.

The Secretary of the Department of Correctional Administration, Government of West Bengal was also recommended to issue directions to concerned authorities for releasing the inmates.

District magistrates and Superintendents are recommended to make arrangements for the transmission of such inmates along with making sure that the guidelines concerning complete lockdown are duly followed.

Chief Medical Officer of the concerned districts should ensure proper health checks of the inmates before releasing them.

The Officer in Charge of the local police station or any officer assigned by him may conduct surprise visits during the period of interim bail. If any inmate is found to be absent, appropriate action should be taken.

As per the direction of the Calcutta High Court to maintain precautionary measures within the correctional homes, the committee directed the ADG and IG of Correctional Services to “ensure proper health and hygiene conditions inside prisons as per standard protocol as laid down by WHO as well as the Health Ministry of the Government of India.

Reports should be submitted to the SLSA of the conditions inside the prison fortnightly by the ADG and IG of correctional Homes.

Exceptions to the Case 

The proposed parameters of the Apex Court and High Court are to be offered to the convicts/under-trials in other offences except the following cases related to: –

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO)

Sexual offences committed against women

Offences related to rioting and waging war against the State

Counterfeit currency

Kidnapping children

Anti-corruption matters

Commercial and economic offences

Gangsters Act

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985 related to the recovery of commercial quantity or less than commercial quantity but more than small quantity, as per the drugs recovered.

Foreigners Act

Convicts and under-trials with residence outside the State of West Bengal may not be considered for release at this stage.

The Calcutta High Court ordered that “all authorities concerned shall abide by the instructions and directions of the High-Powered Committee” and accordingly release Inmates And Under Trials.

The case was listed for consideration on 15th April 2020.


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