Coronavirus Pandemic: Maharashtra looks to free 11,000 prisoners to avoid overcrowding in jails

Coronavirus Pandemic: Maharashtra looks to free 11,000 prisoners to avoid overcrowding in jails

On Thursday, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh proposed that close to 11,000 convicted/undertrial prisoners imprisoned for offences with prescribed punishment up to seven years or less (with or without fine) should be left on emergency parole or furlough. Deshmukh stated that he demanded the release to reduce overcrowding in prisons and bring down the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

The State Home Minister had held a meeting with top police brass to discuss the logistics and modalities of this operation. Meanwhile, Deshmukh wants the entire operation to be completed in a week.

"We are also looking at undertrials being given bail or even a full release to those who have completed longer terms in prison than the prescribed punishment,” he said.

Maharashtra has 60 jails, with over 36,000 inmates. Among which, the nine central prisons -Mumbai, Thane, Kharghar, Nashik, Pune, Aurangabad, Kalamba, Amravati and Nagpur - are the most crowded. Earlier, the Home Ministry had already asked for the inmates to be shuffled in order to reduce crowding, especially in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail. The jail was red-flagged by many as a potential flashpoint for the rapid spread of nCOVID-19.

The Supreme Court is also seized of a suo motu petition to prevent the outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus in prisons due to crowding.

Meanwhile, the state home ministry had appointed a committee comprising the chairperson of the state legal services committee, the principal secretary (Home) and DG (Prisons), to take a call on which class of prisoners could be released on parole or interim bail.

Maharashtra is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak with 147 positive COVID-19 cases, as of March 27, and four deaths. The number of cases for the coronavirus or COVID-19 in Mumbai is 51. 

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