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Coronavirus: Supreme Court orders release of prisoners to decongest jails

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The Supreme Court has ordered all states to consider releasing some prisoners on parole to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Each state has been ordered to constitute a high powered committee which will decide on the matter.

"Each state shall constitute a high powered committee, it will determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or interim bail for such period as may be appropriate," said the order by Chief Justice of India S.A Bobde. The High-level committee will work in consultation with the State Legal Service Authority for deciding on the release of prisoners.

According to the order, prisoners convicted or charged with offenses having jail term of up to seven years can be given parole. The apex court's order was clear that the prisoners are being released in an attempt to avoid overcrowding in jails during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked chief secretaries of all states to respond by March 20 with measures that need to be taken to curb overcrowding in jails amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The SC was expected to hear on the matter today.

The Maharastra government last week had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court seeking the release of over 5,000 prisoners on bail or medical furlough from all jails in the state. The state government had done this to decongest its already overcrowded prions.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country were 415 as of 9:00 am on March 23. Globally, the number has climbed to over  3,30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including around 14,000 deaths.

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