Supreme Court refuses to extend bail of prisoners freed due to Covid

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Prisoners who were released last year to decongest jails in Delhi due to the outbreak of Covid-19 will now have to return to prison as the Supreme Court on Monday refused to extend their bail.

A bench comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said the situation is now improving and the pandemic seemed to be under control and prisoners can go back to jail.

It granted them 15 days to surrender before jail authorities. There are over 2,600 prisoners who were granted bail by the Delhi high court or lower courts in view of the pandemic and their bail was extended from time to time.

Though the prisoners contended that jails in the capital are still overcrowded as there are 17,000 inmates against the sanctioned strength of 10,000, the bench, however, said it would examine how to deal with the problem of overcrowding in future while refusing to grant them relief.

The trial court had granted bail to 2,318 undertrials and the Delhi High Court had released 356 inmates last year on interim bail owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The apex court passed the order on a petition challenging the Delhi High Court order which had in October directed the prisoners to surrender by November 13.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had stayed the high court order and agreed to hear the prisoners’ plea for more time to surrender. The court, however, said the prisoners are at liberty to move the respective courts for getting bail and the court will decide their plea on the merits of the case.

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