SC maintains categorization of prisoners for temporary release by Maharashtra High Powers Committee due to Covid-19 [Read Judgment]


The Supreme Court rejected a plea by the National Alliance of Popular Movements challenging the decision of the Maharashtra High Power Committee to classify the categories of prisoners who will be released on emergency parole. The current option offered is only a solution to help decongestion and prevent the spread of the virus. At the same time, the advantage granted in …

The Supreme Court rejected a plea by the National Alliance of Popular Movements challenging the decision of the Maharashtra High Power Committee to classify the categories of prisoners who will be released on emergency parole.

This proposed option is only a solution to help decongestion and prevent the spread of the virus. At the same time, the advantage granted in such a circumstance cannot be to the detriment of social order by freeing all categories of prisoners regardless of the categorization to be made according to the seriousness of the crime, etc.., said Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramaniam.

The Committee classified prison inmates into three categories, namely (i) inmates on trial / convicted persons who are liable to trial or sentenced to the maximum sentence of 7 years or less, (ii) convicted persons whose sentence is more than 7 years and (iii) those convicted or convicted of serious economic crimes / bank fraud and misdemeanors under special laws such as MCOC, PMLA, MPID, NDPS, UAPA, etc. One of the clauses stipulated that convicts whose maximum sentence exceeds 7 years must, on their request, be duly considered for emergency parole, if the convicted person returned to prison in time during the 2 latest releases (whether on parole or on leave).

The LIP was filed by the National Alliance for the Popular Movement and its activist Medha Patkar, requesting the annulment of the decision of the High Committee (HPC) to the extent of clauses (iii), (iv), (vii). As the High Court refused to overturn the categorization, the NGO approached the Apex Court.

Confirming this view, the Apex Tribunal observed that the categorization by HPC cannot be considered unreasonable and that the exclusion made has a reasonable basis and cannot be characterized as arbitrary. The court said that the methodology for granting the interim bail was aimed at avoiding overcrowding in unprecedented circumstances and that the granting of the bail under the current circumstances is an added benefit for these people. He further added:

“What has been reduced by the HPC by excluding certain categories is only for the purpose of denying the benefit to certain categories of inmates who are accused of serious offenses which have a negative effect on society as a whole despite the length of time. the penalty which Persons charged under the special provisions or sentenced for a period, more than 7 years in any event, if not otherwise ineligible for release on bail under normal circumstances, could still apply for release on bail under normal circumstances. bond in accordance with the law and cannot treat the pandemic as a fortuitous circumstance to obtain a bond to which they were not entitled in law by claiming equal treatment. released on bail due to the Covid19 situation and no other legal rights were denied. Therefore, in the event that this consideration of the surety is not provided for by law but is made available on the basis of the order made by this Court and in addition, when a known criterion is formulated by the CHP, who had all the documents, interference with a request of the present nature would in any event not have occurred and the High Court was therefore justified in its conclusion ”.

The court also noted that as of 24.07.2020, 10,338 prisoners have been released on bail / parole and currently 26,279 prisoners are in prison. By ruling out the SLP, the judiciary clarified:

If, despite the release of the accused / convicted in the categories currently constituted does not achieve the objective and the fact that additional prisons are also set up is not sufficient and in this context if a modification with regard to the categories made by HPC is required; it would certainly be open to the CHP to take note of this and consider modifying its guidelines in this regard.

petitioners would still have the opportunity to obtain the necessary statistics and should a change in the guidelines become necessary in the future, they would be free to submit an appropriate representation to the CHP who in this case would consider the same and succeed to a conclusion at its discretion based on whether or not to change its guidelines. In this regard, we are of the view that where such a factual consideration to achieve the object alone is necessary and the CHP is constituted for the very purpose, interference with legal proceedings of the present nature to alter the criteria would only arise if it is so arbitrary that no reasonable person can accept it. But in cases where there is individual discrimination among detainees of the same category and placed in a similar manner, it would be open to the competent court to consider the same to a limited extent when the grievance is raised by the person to whom the complaint is made. The allowance is refused if he / she is entitled to this benefit.

Case Name: National Alliance for Popular Movements Against the State of Maharashtra

Case n °: SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL) N ° 4116 OF 2020

Coram: Chief Judge SA Bobde, Judge AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramaniam

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