The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that its blanket order extending interim paroles and bails to prisoners in view of the coronavirus pandemic should come to an end after the Aam Aadmi Party government said that there were only three prisoners who have contracted the infection, reported PTI.
“Let us bring to an end the Covid chapter,” a bench comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh said. “Let these people surrender or go back to jail. We passed the order in view of the pandemic. Our order has nothing to do with overcrowding of the jails. We are not concerned by the nature of the crimes.”
The court added that other reasons for granting or extending bail and parole, other than Covid-19, can continue.
The observations came on a plea seeking modification of the Delhi High Court’s July 13 and July 24 rulings, which had clarified that its orders extending interim bails and paroles would be applicable to everyone granted relief before or after March 16. The plea, moved by one of the prosecutors dealing with the Delhi violence cases in the trial courts, alleged that the accused were misusing the two orders by seeking bail on grounds of family illness or some such other reasons. The prosecutor said the accused were not seeking regular bail and then getting it extended due to the High Court’s direction.
The lawyer who moved the plea said that about 20 accused in the February violence cases, who were granted bail on some pretext, were now enjoying the benefits of the Delhi High Court’s blanket order. He opposed the bail grant, saying that the accused do not surrender after the bail expires in view of the Delhi High Court’s ruling.
Rahul Mehra, Delhi government’s counsel, who was appearing for the director general (prisons), argued that removal of the blanket order would be against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling to decongest jails in view of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that the Covid-19 cases have not reduced in Delhi. Mehra added that the decongestion of the prisons has not caused an increase in crime or anarchy in the city.
The judges, however, said it will stop the ban and let the prisoners “suffer” if they were misusing the order.
Mehra told the court that more than 6,700 prisoners were out on bail or parole. He added that three jails – Rohini, Tihar, and Mandoli – in Delhi have an overall capacity of around 10,000 but more than 15,900 prisoners were lodged in them.
On March 25, the court had extended the interim order to extend parole and bails till May 15 in all pending matters before it and subordinate courts in view of the nationwide lockdown. The order has since then been extended from time-to-time.