Maharashtra to release 50% of Prisoners to decongest Jails

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As COVID-19 cases seem to be on a rise in India, a high power committee appointed by the Maharashtra Government for the emergency release on parole or bail of prison inmates, decided  to release around 17,000 prisoners from jails across the state. This is nearly half the prisoner strength of 35,239 across jails in Maharashtra.

The decision comes in the wake of rising number of inmates and staff testing positive at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. There were 185 fresh positive cases at Arthur road and other cases were coming positive at the women’s prison in Byculla, Mumbai and the risk of an outbreak in overcrowded jails had increased.

The committee however, rejected the contention of an advocate SB Talekar to modify the category of inmates who would benefit. Talekar had argued that the benefit be extended to even offenders under special laws including MPID, MMCOCA, UAPA, PMLA etc be released on emergency grounds during the covid-19 lockdown.

The HC said, “In any event, the prisoners charged/convicted under the Special Acts including MPID Act cannot claim to be released from prison as of right.” It added, “The object was only to release some of the prisoners not all.”
The HC had on April 23 directed Talekar to make a representation to the committee after converting suo – motu, his letter to the chief justice to not discriminate against those accused of economic offences and release them too.
The committee headed by high court Justice Amjad Sayed and comprising Sanjay Chahande, additional Chief Secretary (Home) and SN Pandey, Director General, Prisons in Maharashtra, heard Talekar on May 11. Its decision was made available on Tuesday.
The panel said, “By a separate decision of this committee taken today, more prisoners than what was decided in the earlier decision of the HPC dated 25-03-2020 are to be released, which would substantially decongest the prisons and about 50% of prisoners out of the prison population of 35,239 are now expected to be released.”