Human rights for prisoners during Covid 19, written by Surya Sunilkumar, student at the Ramaiah Institute of Legal Studies
National Alliance for Popular Movement & Ors. Vs State of Maharashtra & Ors. (2020)
The Covid 19 pandemic has affected everyone in the world. As there is no cure or vaccines yet and the only way to survive this pandemic is through social distancing. On September 22, 2020, the Supreme Court of India made a ruling on the scope of security / parole / leave due to the unforeseen circumstances of a pandemic. The petitioner submitted a special leave request, stating that the High Powered Committee had unduly discriminated against in deciding on the categories.
Facts of the case
A PIL has been filed requesting that the High Powered Committee’s decision be taken on the extent of the clarification that the classification of offenses into three categories of (i) prisoners / convicts on trial or sentenced to a maximum sentence of 7 years or less, (ii) the convicted persons whose prison sentence is more than 7 years, and (iii) the prisoners or convicted of serious economic offenses / banking fraud and offenses under special laws such as MCOC, PMLA, posted, MPID, NDPS, UAPA, etc. set by the HPC for temporary release are discriminatory in nature and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The bank made comments on the procedures in the above case:
• The High Court’s decision to grant the offenders bail, based on the categories and classes established by the committee, was made to seek the relief of prisons to contain the spread of the virus. As the actual admission of prisoners was above the admission limit, this step was seen as a preventive step related to the prisoners’ health.
• It has previously issued an order to propose immediate action that should be taken for the medical care of all prisons and juvenile detention centers.
• It was also found that according to the case law of West Bengal State against Anwar Ali Sarkar, Arun Kumar & Ors against Union of India & Ors. and KR Lakshman & Ors. Karnataka Electricity Board collectively states that equality before the law or equal protection of laws does not imply identity or abstract symmetry of treatment and that adequate classification is allowed. Therefore the petitioner’s claim that the categorization was discriminatory was rejected.
• It was established that, given the pandemic situation, the provision of temporary bail is not a legal but a human right. In addition, the court ordered that bail be given only after taking into account the actual location of the total reception of prisoners, as this is not mandatory if the prison houses an exact number of prisoners and maintains social distancing.
• If a prisoner is exposed to individual discrimination, he or she can turn to the competent court to investigate any complaints.
Therefore, the appeal was rejected by the Supervisory Committee on the grounds that the category submitted by the High Powered Committee was non-discriminatory.
The Apex court made this decision with the pandemic in mind. But there are advantages and disadvantages.
Some of the professionals of this fine are
• It takes into account the human rights of the prisoner, which are important to uphold the rights of the citizens enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
• Giving the less heinous offenders bail will help ease the burden on prisons and maintain social distancing. This decision ensures the health and safety of prisoners and those who work on the prison premises.
• It is also said that appropriate discrimination and categorization is an exception under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
Some of the cons of this order are:
• Firstly, one of the main issues that remain: How will the authorities monitor prisoners who are being bailed? Although temporary, the prisoners may attempt to escape the remainder of the prison term.
Second, prisoners who are convicted and sentenced to more than 7 years in prison, if given on bail, would harm society as the nature and gravity of the offense of these prisoners in this category are appalling. Taking this category into account is therefore against the safety and well-being of the public.
The decision withheld the decisions of the High Powered Committee. It was found that the categorization cannot be viewed as inappropriate or arbitrary and the method of giving the detainee a bail is in the interests of well-being.