The Haryana government has decided to extend by another six weeks the duration of parole or interim bail granted to convicted prisoners in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 with up to seven years of sentence and undertrials liable to get as long jail terms on conviction.
Foreign prisoners, however, are not included in this. Also, prisoners convicted in cases like drug smuggling, rape, acid attack are not among those released.
"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," Jails Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala said.
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 "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, dated March 23, which passed the order for decongesting prisons in view of the pandemic.
"Readmitting of such a large number of inmates at this point is likely to increase the risk of the COVID-19 infection to the existing inmates and will defeat the whole objective of releasing inmates on parole/interim bail.
"In this background, it would be appropriate to extend the parole period of the convicts for another six weeks from the date of their first surrender," the committee said.
Initially too, the parole was granted for six weeks.
For undertrials, who were allowed 45-days interim bail, extendable to 60 days, the duration of interim bail has been also extended by six weeks from the date of their surrender.
COVID-19 test and 14 days quarantine for prisoners returning from interim bail, parole or furlough will be mandatory.
The test for prison staff returning after availing leave on emergent grounds, will also be mandatory. Staff will be allowed to join duty only on receipt of COVID-19 negative test report and fitness report from the medical officer of the jail, the committee has said.
On April 19, a jail warden posted in Gurgaon district had tested positive for the infection after he returned from leave from his hometown in Bhiwani district.
Meanwhile, taking into consideration "extreme and exceptional health status" of an undertrial woman prisoner, who is eight months pregnant and at the Jind district jail, bail was granted to her for 12 weeks, officials said.
The representation was filed by her husband in the matters, they said.