Plea in HC to extend emergency parole of aged, ailing prisoners; court seeks AAP govt stand

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday asked the AAP government, prison authorities and the State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to reply on a plea seeking extension of emergency parole to prisoners above the age of 65 and prone to COVID-19 infection due to certain ailments and medical condition.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the Delhi government, Director General (DG) Prisons and DSLSA seeking their responses by March 26 to the plea by a lawyer.

Advocate Amit Sahni, also a social activist, has urged the court to direct that in the interest of inmates and jail administration, the aged prisoners be directed to surrender after all others prisoners.

The plea has said social distancing is not feasible in jails here as they are already overcrowded and the prisons have been extremely affected by the pandemic.

It has sought direction to the authorities that the prisoners, who are COVID-19 infected, should quarantine themselves at their place before surrendering.

It has also said Delhi jails have a capacity to retain 10,026 prisoners and presently around 14,000 inmates are already lodged there, excluding around 4,000 of them who were released on interim bail or emergency parole.

Sahni has also referred to the Supreme Court's January 21 order extending the stay on October 20 last year order of the Delhi High Court by which interim bail granted to undertrials in view of the COVID-19 pandemic ended and they were directed to surrender on various dates.

The plea has said as the matter is scheduled to come up for hearing before the apex court on February 25, the directions issued by the top court relating to extension of interim bail to the undertrial should also be applied to the prisoners released on emergency parole.

On the last date of hearing, the DSLSA had said that if the petitioner wanted the apex court's order to be applicable on paroles, he should approach the top court.

The petition has also said that the Director General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, despite being a party to the proceedings in the Supreme Court and being aware that the matter is pending before the apex court, had issued a circular directing prisoners to surrender on their due dates with effect from February 7.

“The situation in Delhi jails is not such that one room/ barrack can be provided to each infected prisoner because a number of inmates are lodged together in a single barrack/room,” it has contended “The jail administration considering the overall situation must be directed that the prisoners above 65 years of age and those who are suffering from ailments be not asked to surrender for a further period of eight weeks because senior citizens are prone to infection. Further the prisoners who have misused the liberty of emergency parole may be denied such benefit,” the petition has said. PTI HMP SA