New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic though caged the world after its inception, yet several of the already caged got to see life outside the four walls.
Pandemic might have proved to be the worst nightmare for the world, but not for several prisoners who were incarcerated at various jails all over the country as the authorities were forced to release many of them on bail.
The Supreme Court on March 23, 2020, just one day before the nationwide 21-day lockdown was imposed, directed the state governments to constitute a high powered committee comprising the Principal Secretary (Home) and the Chairman of the state legal service authority to determine which class of convicts or undertrials could be released on parole or interim bail.
The directions, issued by the Apex Court, were in a bid to decongest the already overpopulated jails of India. India, at that time was having four lakh inmates in different prisons of the country. As a result a total of 68,264 prisoners were released on interim bail across the country until December 14.
One year later in 2021, when the virulent second wave of pandemic struck the country, the Top Court yet again taking note of the unprecedented surge in Covid cases told the state governments to immediately release prisoners who had been granted bail or parole last year.
While exclusively speaking to IANS, Director General of Delhi Prisons Sandeeep Goyal informed that in 2021, as many as 842 convicted prisoners were released on emergency parole while 4,621 undertrial prisoners were released on interim bail.
Still not all prisoners were lucky enough! Reportedly, several inmates who were convicted for offences under POCSO Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, offences against women, prisoners accused of rioting, waging war against the government and counterfeiting currency were denied the benefit of interim bail.
But have they now been called back? Are they still out?, the DG Prisons responded that so far there is a stay on their return as per a Supreme Court order.
The Apex Court had in July, 2021 ordered that all prisoners, released by the High-Powered Committee (HPC) of various state governments following its May 2020 order, shouldn’t be asked to surrender until further orders.
As the Covid cases have drastically plummeted in the past some time, has the time arrived that they be sent back? Certainly, the law offenders have the potential to disrupt the peace of the society. In the recent past several cases have come forth where the inmates who have been out on parole have committed more serious crimes.
Delhi Police on March 22 shared that they have arrested a dreaded criminal, already convicted in murder, robbery and attempt to murder cases, for raping a woman after claiming that he could cure her epilepsy through black magic.
Pertinently, the accused, identified as Suraj alias Bhagat (32), a resident of Samaypur Badli, was out on parole due to the Covid pandemic and was arrested from the Arthala village in Mohan Nagar area of neighbouring Ghaziabad.
In another case, a 24-year-old murder convict man, out on parole for marriage, was arrested for committing another gruesome murder in the national capital and jumping his parole period. The accused, identified as Anchal Mishra, a resident of Delhi, was already serving a life sentence for a murder that he had committed in 2017. He was also carrying a cash reward of Rs 30,000 on his arrest. In August, 2021, the accused was granted parole for his marriage.
However, there is certainly a large chunk of inmates who did not misuse the benefits of the pandemic and kept themselves away from any criminal activity.