The Supreme Court on Friday said that all prisoners, released on emergency parole by the state high-powered committees constituted on its order during the Covid pandemic, will have to surrender within 15 days.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar said: "All those under-trials/ convicts who have been released on emergency parole/interim bail pursuant to the recommendation of the High-Powered Committee, in compliance of the orders, dated March 23, 2020, May 7, 2021 and July 16, 2021, passed by this court in suo moto writ petition have to surrender before the concerned prison authorities within 15 days."
The bench added that the present order be intimated to the accused/inmates concerned by the jail authorities that they have now to surrender within the period of 15 days.
"However, it is observed that thereafter after the concerned prisoners/inmates surrender before the concerned prison authorities, it will be open for the concerned undertrials to pray for bail before the competent court and their applications be considered in accordance with law and on its own merits."
It further added that after the surrender by the concerned convicts who are released on emergency parole, it will be open for them, if so advised, to pray for suspension of sentence before the concerned court in their appeals which might have been pending, and which also may be considered in accordance with law and/or on merits.
The bench noted that it is not in dispute and cannot be disputed that all those undertrial prisoners/convicts were released on interim bail/emergency parole taking into consideration the overcrowding in the prisons and to prevent the spread of Covid-19 virus among prisoners in overcrowded prisons.
"All those undertrial prisoners/convicts therefore were not released on merit but were released on the aforesaid ground alone. Therefore, now when the Covid-19 situation has now been normalised, all those prisoners/inmates/undertrial prisoners/convicts who are/were released on emergency parole/interim bail have to surrender before the concerned prison authorities," it said.
In March 2020, the apex court took suo motu cognisance of the medical assistance needed for prisoners in overcrowded jails to save them from coronavirus, and issued notices to the Chief Secretaries, the Home Secretaries, the DGs (Prisons) and Social Welfare Secretaries of all states and Union Territories.
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During the first and second wave of the pandemic, the top court had passed several orders for grant of emergency parole to prisoners to avoid the overcrowding of prisons to contain the spread of the viral infection among them.