Delhi HC asks 3.5k undertrials out for COVID to surrender

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Nearly 3,500 undertrial prisoners who were released to decongest city’s jails during the Coronavirus pandemic, will have to surrender, the High Court of Delhi has said.

The Court has directed 3,499 undertrial prisoners to surrender on expiry of their respective interim bail period, based on the recommendation of a high-powered committee constituted earlier on the direction of the Apex Court.

A bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul & Justice Talwant Singh said it was “not inclined” to further extend the period of interim bail granted to these undertrial prisoners under various criteria laid down by the committee in its several meetings.

“It is therefore directed that all the 3,499 UTPs granted interim bails under the various criteria laid down by the committee, who have not obtained regular bails from their court concerned, or any other superior court to its court concerned, shall surrender before the jail superintendent (s) upon the expiry of the period of their interim bail commencing from March 7,” the HC said in an order passed last week.

The bench added that since the 3,499 undertrial prisoners were granted interim bails on different dates, so the period of their interim bails would expire with end on different dates & there was no requirement to fix any specific date for their surrender.

The Court, while refusing to extend the interim bails, considered the improved situation of Covid-19 in Delhi-NCR too. It also took into consideration the March 1 directions of the Supreme Court wherein 2,318 prisoners granted interim bails by trial courts & 356 prisoners granted bail by the high court were asked to surrender within fifteen days.

The HC, which disposed of the plea relating to extension of interim bails, made it clear that all these prisoners may invoke the jurisdiction of the court concerned for grant of regular bail & the courts shall consider it on merits. It directed the director general (prisons) to ensure that this order is conveyed to all the 3,499 undertrial prisoners by telephone & all other available modes.

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