Chandigarh, May 17 (PTI) Two undertrials in Haryana, who had come out on bail, have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Sunday.
They were arrested last week on rioting and other charges and subsequently released on bail from Bhondsi jail in Gurgaon.
A judge from Rewari before whom they were produced a day after their arrest and 13 others, including some court employees present during the hearing and the police officials who had escorted the undertrials, have been placed in home quarantine, the officials said.
The samples of the undertrials were collected by the health department on May 12, the day of their arrest and they were out on bail the next day. On Saturday, their report came positive.
The undertrials have been admitted to an isolation ward of civil hospital at Rewari. The jail authorities at Bhondsi have been informed.
Earlier, an undertrial kept in the Sonepat district jail's isolation ward was found infected with coronavirus. He was later admitted to the civil hospital.
A jail official posted in Gurgaon district had also contracted the infection a month ago when he was on leave to his hometown in Bhiwani, officials said.
Haryana's Jail Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala on Sunday, however, said that there has been no case of virus outbreak in various jails in the state.
“As such there is no case of any prisoner inside the jail testing positive for coronavirus. Even in the case of these undertrials, they are kept separate and not straightway lodged with other prisoners,” he said.
The state has nearly 20,000 inmates in 19 jails, including three central prisons – one in Ambala and two in Hisar.
He said in view of the prevailing pandemic situation, the Haryana government has made COVID test and 14- day quarantine mandatory for prisoners returning from interim bail, parole, furlough or remand from police to judicial custody.
COVID test has also been made mandatory for prison staff returning to jails after availing leave on emergent grounds, Chautala said.
Such prison staff will be allowed to join back his or her regular duties only on receipt of COVID negative test report and fitness report from the Medical Officer of the jail, he said.
The Haryana government had recently extended by another six weeks the duration of parole or interim bail granted to convicted prisoners in view of coronavirus.
As many as 3,817 prisoners were released last month on interim or regular bail, parole or extended parole. The state government decided to release convicted prisoners facing up to seven years of sentence and undertrials liable to get similar jail terms on conviction.
Foreign nationals, however, are not included in this. Also, prisoners convicted in cases like drug smuggling, rape, acid attack are not among those released.
“In view of the extraordinary circumstances prevailing due to the pandemic, reported increase in number of COVID infected persons across the country and the directions given by the Supreme Court, readmitting around 4,000 prisoners released on parole or interim bail back into jails at this stage is a huge risk and is likely to increase risk of infections to existing inmates,' Chautala said.
'In this background it was decided that it would be appropriate to extend the parole period of the convicts for another six weeks from the date of their first surrender,” he said.
The decision to release the prisoners had been taken in accordance with the Supreme Court's directive to decongest crowded prisons to prevent them from becoming fertile ground for spread of the coronavirus.
A high-powered committee under Justice Rajiv Sharma of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and comprising Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Haryana, Vijai Vardhan and DGP (prisons) K Selvraj in its recommendation had on May 5 stated that “readmitting around 4,000 prisoners released on parole or interim bail back into the jails at this stage is a huge risk…”.
The committee was formed on the directive of the Supreme Court. PTI SUN VSD DV DV