Srinagar: The 11th High Powered Committee (HPC) meeting on Monday passed a slew of directions for the release of jail inmates, except those involved in serious crimes, to decongest the prisons in the Union Territory of JK.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, who is also Executive Chairman of J&K Legal Services Authority, for implementation of directions of the Supreme Court of India with regard to the containment of coronavirus in JK prisons.
The meeting was attended by Principal Secretary Home Department, Shaleen Kabra; DGP Prisons, Dr B Srinivas; Member Secretary JK Legal Services Authority, MK Sharma and other concerned.
The Committee was constituted by the Jammu and Kashmir Admin following an order by the Supreme Court on March 23, 2020 and May 07, 2021, directing the States and the UTs to decongest jails to ensure social distancing among the prisoners.
At the outset, the Committee appreciated the efforts of prison department for not only managing the COVID breakout in the prisons but also for maintaining hygiene in the jail premises.
The Members of the Committee discussed and deliberated upon the proposed category of prisoners, who may be considered for grant of interim bail for 90 days in view of the present circumstances.
The Committee decided to release all the jail inmates who were earlier released on parole or on interim bail for 90 days as per the directions of the Supreme Court in March 2020.
Justice Magrey directed the Member Secretary, J&K Legal Services Authority to coordinate with the other two members of the Committee to find out the category of convicts/UTPs who can also be released pursuant to the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Such an exercise shall be completed within a week and the report be placed before the Committee.
Justice Magrey directed the DGP (Prisons) to coordinate with the Health department to ensure vaccination of jail inmates as well as staff on priority.
Besides this, the Committee directed the jail authorities to take appropriate steps by ensuring that the inmates and the staff wear masks and maintain social distancing and by keeping the frequently visited areas like kitchen, bathrooms etc. hygienic to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, further directed the Legal Service Institutions across the UT of J&K to provide the services of Panel Lawyers to the inmates who are eligible to be released from custody by moving applications on their behalf.
It also called for the additional release of prisoners on paroles or interim bail orders for which DGP Prisons and member Secretary JKLSA were asked to workout modalities within the stipulated time.
The Committee also suggested for the creation of additional accommodation or temporary accommodation within or outside jail complexes for ensuring strict adherence to Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) of COVID-19 issued by the medical experts.
Further, the high powered committee also decided to discontinue all the visits of outside visitors including NGOs but while doing so the families of the jail inmates will have excess to meet the prisoners by use of virtual mode or by phones.
Frequent sanitization of jails and better medical facilities were also decided to be ensured in all the jails of J&K.
The Committee decided to accelerate to hold awareness campaigns among jail inmates regarding SOPs to prevent the spread of COVID pandemic.
The Committee further decided to ensure the safety of prisoners by frequent testing and complete vaccination of jail inmates along with the jail staff.
It also called for the measures like transportation of released inmates by providing them proper transport facilities in view of lockdown.