Supreme Court Refrains From Entertaining Petition for Decongestion of Prisons

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The Supreme Court heard a petition that sought decongestion of prisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It heard a Suo Moto writ petition on 23rd March 2020 in reply of the contagion of COVID-19 in prisons. This led to the formation of high-powered committees by all the States and Union territories. These committees had to determine the class of prisoners who could be released for 4-6 weeks on parole. 

Petitioner’s Submissions

The petitioner submitted that on the basis of the order passed by the court on 23rd March 2020, States and Union Territories should submit a report related to the progress made. 

Furthermore, it submitted that all the States should describe what the exact situation is in relation to the prisons. It must answer questions such as how many prisoners have been released yet, how many prisoners are under process to be released, what are the reasons for the delay, how many prisoners are in jail for minor offences etc.

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It submitted that is is important to ask for a report from states as the prisons are still overcrowded. Additionally, Courts have imprisoned many people for minor offences. In light of the situation, these prisons may release such persons. 

Court’s Observation

A three-judge bench comprising of the Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, Justice A. S. Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that the Court cannot pass similar directions as the situation varies from State to State. Hence, the bench was not willing to hear the petition. Instead, the Court suggested the petitioner approach the concerned High Court for the matter in hand. 

Over the persistent contention of the petitioner to pass general order, the Chief Justice stated:-

“Will you withdraw or should we dismiss? We would like the advantage of hearing from you after hearing the view of the High Court. We are not asking you, specifically, to go to the HC.”

Court’s Decision

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The Supreme Court dismissed the petition. It granted the petitioner permission to approach concerned jurisdictional High Courts for this matter. 


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