The Apex Court Quashes The Plea Against The Maharashtra High Power Committee’s Categorization Of Prisoners For Temporary Release Due To Covid-19.

INTRODUCTION

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the petitioner’s plea challenging the decision of the High Power Committee (HPC) in Maharashtra to categorize the prisoners who will be released on emergency parole. The bench consisted Chief Justice S.A Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna, and V. Ramasubramanian.

The PIL was filed by the petitioners seeking quashing the decision of the HPC dated 25.03.2020 to the extent of Clause (iii), (iv) and (vii). The High Court on making a detailed consideration arrived at the conclusion that the decision of HPC did not call for interference except to the extent of the observations that were made in paragraph 36 of the order. The petitioners, therefore, claimed to be aggrieved reached the Apex Court.

The Committee classified the inmates of the prisons, broadly into three categories, viz (i) undertrial prisoners/convicted persons who are facing trial or convicted to the maximum punishment of 7 years or less, (ii) the convicted persons whose sentence is above 7 years and (iii) the undertrial prisoners or convicted persons who are booked for serious economic offences/ bank scams and offences under Special Acts such as MCOC, PMLA, MPID, NDPS, UAPA etc. One of the clauses stipulated that the convicted prisoners whose maximum sentence is above 7 years shall on their application be appropriately considered for release on emergency parole, if the convict has returned to prison on emergency parole, if the convict has returned to prison on time on last two releases( whether on parole or furlough).

Key Highlights

  • Case name: National Alliance for People’s Movement v. State of Maharashtra
  • Case no. SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL) NO. 4116 OF 2020
  • The PIL was filed by National Alliance for People’s Movement and its convener activist Medha Patkar.

Court’s Decision

  • The Court observed that the categorization by HPC cannot be considered as unreasonable and the exclusion made had a reasonable basis and cannot be termed as arbitrary. The Court said that the methodology for grant of the interim bail is with the view of decongesting of the prisons, to avoid overcrowding in the unprecedented circumstance and the grant of bail in the present circumstance is an additional benefit to such persons.
  • The Court further added that exclusion of certain categories by the HPC is with a view to deny the benefit to certain category of jail inmates who are charged with serious offences which has an adverse effect on the society at large though the length of the punishment that can be imposed be lesser. Such of those persons charged under the special enactments or convicted for a period, more than 7 years in any event if they are not otherwise disentitled to bail in a normal circumstance could still seek for bail in accordance with law and cannot treat the pandemic as fortuitous circumstance to secure bail to which they were otherwise not entitled to in law by claiming equal treatment.
  • The Court noted of the factual position that on 24.07.2020, 10338 prisoners were released on interim bail/parole and presently 26,279 prisoners are in prison. Since, it was contended on behalf of the petitioners that the official capacity was only 23,217, the State Government indicated that temporary prisons have been set up in 36 locations and about 2597 prisoners are occupying the same as of now and more will be shifted to avoid overcrowding in the existing prisons, which indicates that appropriate steps are being taken to achieve the object. While dismissing the SLP, Court further stated:

“In circumstances where there is any individuous discrimination amongst the prisoners in same category and similarly placed, it would be open for the competent court to examine the same to that limited extent when grievance is raised by the person who is denied the benefit if he/she is entitled to such benefit”.

Discuss the following provisions:

Discuss the provision of PIL.

Discuss the provision of Special Leave Petition

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