The Supreme Court said on Saturday, May 8, that police should not apprehend any accused unless necessary in crimes sentenced with less than seven years' imprisonment.
The apex court ruled it while passing detailed orders on decongesting overcrowded jails during the raging second wave of COVID-19. The SC also instructed the authorities to ensure adequate medical facilities for the inmates.
The high-level committees formed by the state governments and the Union Territories (UTs) have been directed to identify and release the susceptible categories of inmates on an urgent basis. The SC also instructed that prisoners who were granted parole last year should again be given a 90-day leave to weather the pandemic.
"The high-powered committee, in addition to considering fresh release, should forthwith release all inmates who had been released earlier pursuant to our order dated March 23, 2020, by imposing appropriate conditions. Such an exercise is mandated in order to save valuable time," the top court said.
The SC had in March last year asked states and UTs to constitute high-powered committees for considering releasing interim bail inmates, prisoners on parole, and undertrials for offences not more than seven years to lessen overcrowding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemics.
The apex court also observed that overcrowding of jails is a phenomenon, plaguing many nations comprising India. The SC also noted that steps need to be taken to stem the further spread of COVID-19 by carrying out regular testing of both prisoners as well as jail staff, and prompt treatment should be made available to them.
"It is necessary to maintain levels of daily hygiene and sanitation required to be improved. Suitable precautions shall be taken to prevent the transmission of the deadly virus amongst the inmates of prisons," the order said.