Legal Aspects of Coronavirus Pandemic (Prisons-Parole-Pandemic)
Aditya Chopra, Law Student
(Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab)
Email Id : Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org
Date : 04/06/2020
Legal Aspects of Coronavirus Pandemic (Prisons-Parole-Pandemic)Introduction Coronavirus has created Pandemic like situation in whole of the world. This Pandemic again strike India after 102 years. In 1918, the Spanish Flu strike Europe and other parts of world including India as Pandemic. India was most affected by this disease. This disease broke out mostly in Bombay that's why in India it is Known as `Bombay Fever'. It took 3 years for India to be in normal situation. Around 13 million people in India lost their lives. Coronavirus is a clubbed group of viruses that are mainly found in human beings as well as in animals. Coronavirus is also known as Covid-19 because this disease is formed in the year 2019. This disease is that type of disease which may communicable to another person. Medical studies and research have shown that one coronavirus positive person can make positive to more than one hundred persons. The vaccine of this disease is yet to come. This disease came first in China in November 2019 and subsequently transmitted to other countries of Asia as well as the whole world. Today, in every part of world where this disease is transmitted is suffering from huge setback of because of current increasing number of deaths and sufferings among people. Each and every country is forced to lockdown its daily activities because of transmission of this disease from one person to another. The same above sufferings among the people are there in India but in a controlled manner. In India number of positive Covid-19 cases are increasing day by day. The reason behind increasing of Covid-19 patients in India is increasing of daily tests to 1 Lakh approx. From past few days of June, 2020, India has witnessed biggest spike in positive cases to 9,000 approx. in one day with increasing number of deaths due to Coronavirus. At present India has more than 2,20,000 positive cases with more than 1,10,000 active cases and more than 6100 deaths reported in India[1*]. Central Government of India has launched various measures to control this Epidemic i.e. one of the foremost and effective measure have been launched by our Worthy Government is `Social Distancing'. This measure has been effective as of now and lockdowns in various parts of India to reduce the impact of this deadly disease. India is under complete lockdown from 25th of March,2020 which is Phase-1 till 14th of April,2020. On 15th April, 2020 our Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi announced another lockdown of 19 days till 3rd May,2020. Again, on 3rd May,2020, Prime Minister Modi Ji announced lockdown till 17th May ,2020 with some ease in relaxations by diving into different zones. Now recently again lockdown has been extended from 17th April,2020 till 31 May,2020. In Lockdown Phase-4 there shall be complete lockdown from 7pm to 7am every day and from 8am to 6pm there is now ease in restrictions for opening of shops and businesses as per the guidelines of the respective states. On 31st May,2020 Government has the Lockdown has been extended to 30th June,2020 with some more relaxations like opening of Religious Places, Restaurants etc from 8th June,2020. Even in the containment zones essential activities are allowed to operate. Our country is going step by step of easing the restrictions. That's why in India, Coronavirus is in a controlled manner as comparatively to different countries like USA, UK, Italy, Spain etc have been worst affected in terms of deaths reported due to this Epidemic.
[1* www.covid19india.org.]Decongestion of Prisons Amid Covid-19 During the Lockdown various debates have become the hot topics of Coronavirus that how the economy will gain the momentum Post-lockdown and the losses incurred by the government and people during the lockdown. One of the foremost questions came to be developed is the working of courts during the Covid-19. As the pendency of the cases is increasing day by day and certain important matters which needs to be listed on urgent basis and required the urgent decision that how will it work if the legal systems of our country will be closed down by making the urgent cases on stand still. Also, the questions on how the Public Interest Litigations which redefines the rights of individuals and curbs the arbitrariness of any action whether done by executive or any other agency would be filed if the courts are closed down. These above topics became the main themes not only in India but in other parts of the country where the lockdown continues due to Covid-19 like situation. In fact, all the answers to these above questions have been given affirmatively by Hon'ble Supreme Court of India on 18th of March 2020 by taking Suo-Motu Petitions In Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons[2*] whereby Hon'ble Bench has directed the working of Supreme Court that it will work on only Extreme Urgent Matters as well as will entertain the Public Interest Litigations also Hon'ble Bench of Supreme Court directed its staff and litigants to restrict to coming to court and `Work from Home' method become suitable to restrict to coming to court. Also, Hon'ble Bench of Supreme Court of India directed all the High Courts of India to direct its staff and litigants to restrict physically coming to the courts and `Work from Home' method suitable to restrict physically coming to court. It also directed to restrict the taking up of matters involving of Extreme Urgency and the listing of Public Interest Litigation petitions in the High Courts and its Subordinate courts.
[2* Suo-Motu Petition (C) No.1/2020, Supreme Court of India, www.sci.com.]Again, on 23rd March 2020 Supreme Court of India taken up the Suo-Motu petition Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons[3*] whereby it directed the all the High Courts and Subordinate Courts to it to enable the feature of Video Conferencing for hearing the petition of urgency as well as for hearing of Public Interest Litigation petitions. It also directed to reduce the overcrowding of prisons in India by following social distancing scheme as it has been thought that prisons are more prone to Coronavirus due to large number of prisoners lodged in the prisons. Hon'ble Bench of Supreme Court of India made the categories of prisoners to be released from the prison on parole basis during the Covid-19 period. Hon'ble Bench specifies that the prisoner whose sentence is not more than 5 years or 7 years in case of senior citizen and the crimes done by him/her does not fall under NDPS act in large quantity, Rape, POSCO, Acid Attack cases, UAV act cases etc will not be considered for parole for Covid-19 period. Hon'ble Bench of Supreme Court also directed all the High Courts of India to make High-Powered Committee to specify the categories of prisoners to be released on parole during Covid-19 period. Subsequently all the High Courts of India have made High-Powered Committee for the release of categories of prisoners on temporary bail during Covid-19. Each High Court in India is under the discretion given by Hon'ble Supreme Court of India that which category of prisoner is to be released on parole and which are to be left out.
[3* Ibid 2]Each High Court of State has made its High-Powered Committee on the directions of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons[4*] to determine the release the categories of prisoners to decongest the jails in India. On the directions of High-Powered Committee of each High Court, the Magistrates of each district started making the list of prisoners to be release on temporary bail and jail superintendents started releasing prisoners. On 7th April Hon'ble Bench of Supreme Court of India responding to Public Interest Litigation in Vishvendra Tomar v. Union of India and others[5*] said that it will not direct the High-Powered Committee of High Courts to consider the release the prisoners accused in special offences like economic offence. But Hon'ble Bench gave the liberty to Petitioner to give representation to Government and High-Powered Committee to release economic offence category prisoners. After the decision of above Public Interest Litigation, High Court of Delhi and its High-Powered Committee gave further relaxation to the categories of prisoners to be released on temporary bail amid Covid-19. Recently High Court of Bombay and its High-Powered Committee decided to release half the population of prisoners on temporary bail during Covid-19. "Apart from this High-Powered Committee of Punjab headed by Hon'ble Mr Justice R.K Jain has decided to extend the temporary bail prisoners to another six-weeks as this pandemic is still going on and it is not safe for the prisoners to return to jail."[5*] In May, 2020, Punjab and Haryana High Court increased its number of Hon'ble Benches to hear all kinds of urgent matters on Video Conferencing feature with 2 Division Benches and 11 Single Benches are working on regular days.
[4* Ibid 3.]
[5* Diary No.10829 of 2020,www.sci.com.]
[6* Covid-19: Punjab Extends Parole of Convicts to Decongest Jails, www.timesofindia.com]Conclusion In the end I would like to express my view point and suggestion that Hon'ble Supreme Court of India and High-Powered Committees made by the respective state High Courts for temporary release of prisoners amid Covid-19, have taken a great step to decongest the prisons. I would like to give suggestion to jail authorities in India that certain categories of prisoners which could not be released on temporary bail during this pandemic to ensure them a healthy environment in prison so that they can be protected from Covid-19. Apart from this, during the lockdown amid Covid-19 situation, every sector in India like aviation sector, industrial sector or any other sector, suffered from great set- back and most affected by this pandemic are the daily wage workers, as they are not getting work to perform, subsequently they are not being paid. That's why Government of India has announced a huge package of Rs 20 Lakh Crore to help small industries, needy people etc. Recently Prime Minister Cares Fund has released Rs 3100 crore to help daily wage workers who are going to their home states by special Shramik trains launched by Central Government.
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