New Delhi: In a bid to reduce over-crowding in jails amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to decide, within a month, on premature release of prisoners who fulfil the conditions set out by the state for remission of sentence.
A bench of Justices Navin Sinha and V. Ramasubramanian disposed a clutch of petitions filed by more than three dozen prisoners, who sought release, after spending around 20 years in jail. The bench directed the state government to take a decision on the plea of these prisoners along with other similarly-placed prisoners within a month.
The top court also directed that similar pleas of remission should be decided in accordance with the new state policy framed in 2018. For prisoners whose pleas were rejected as per the old policy, the state government should consider them afresh, it said.
The top court also asked the Executive Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh State Legal Services Authority, who is a sitting High Court judge, to overlook the measures steps taken by the government in compliance of its order.
The advocates representing the petitioners, including Rishi Malhotra, submitted that the top court should keep the matter pending and list it after a month for compliance of the order. But the bench did not entertain this argument and said that it has confidence in a sitting High Court judge, who will ensure compliance of its order.
Malhotra said: “All these prisoners have completed more than the specified requirements under the policy. In fact, they had undergone more than 21 years of total sentence. Therefore, any single day would amount to illegal detention.”
During the hearing, the bench noted: “Covid pandemic is creating problems in jails so you (UP) should take decisions quickly. We expect you to act fast and not to put your policy in cold storage.”
The bench further added that the ball is in state government’s court, and it will request the state Legal Services Authority to monitor the situation.
The top court also observed that state and the district Legal Service Authorities should work together to find life convicts, who are languishing in jail without applying for remission due to ignorance of the law. It added the Legal Services Authorities would be allowed to file representations before the state government on behalf of the prisoners and the government will take a decision in a time-bound manner.