All jail authorities were directed to ensure social distancing of all the prisoners/UTPs inside the prisons Credit: Representational image

Kohima: Following a high-powered committee meeting headed by Justice S Serto & executive chairman, Nagaland State Legal Services Authority (NSLSA), on April 1, the Nagaland government has released 109 undertrial prisoners (UTPs) for an interim period on parole.

An update from the NSLSA on Thursday evening said that in pursuance to the direction of the Supreme Court to decongest prisons due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the undertrials were released on parole.

It said that as per the directive, a high-powered committee was constituted on March 30 headed by Justice S Serto and executive chairman, Nagaland State Legal Services Authority, along with Abhijit Sinha, principal secretary (home) and Renchamo P Kikon, ADG (Prison) as members.

The committee then collected the lists of undertrials and convicts from all the jails of Nagaland. It said that in total, there are 11 Jails in the state, inclusive of the central jail in Dimapur, with a capacity to accommodate 1,450 prisoners.

“However, at present, including both undertrials and convicts, there are 537 inmates, out of which 12 are women. In the light of the high-powered committee direction, a total of 109 undertrials were released from the 11 districts jails and Central Jail Dimapur in Nagaland,” the statement read.

After the April 1 meeting which was held in the office of the Justice, High Court Kohima Bench, the committee decided that “interim bail is to be granted to UTPs who are facing trial in a case which prescribes a maximum sentence of seven years or less if the UTP has more than one case and in all the cases, he is ‘on bail’ except the one for which he is being considered and the same prescribes punishment for seven years or less”.

It was provided that in both the above cases, the UTP is in custody for a period of one month or more, and in case of women UTPs, 15 days or more.

However, inmates undergoing trial for recovery of narcotic drugs under NPDS Act; those facing trial under Section 4 & amp; 6 of POCSO Act; those facing trial for offences under Section 376, 376(A), 376B, 376C, 376D and 376E and acid attack; UTPs who are foreign nationals; and UTPs facing trial under Prevention of Corruption Act(PC Act)/PMLA; and Cases investigated by CBI/ED/NIA/Special Cell Police and Terror related cases, cases under Anti-National Activities and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act etc. c) NSA detainees were excluded for getting interim bail.

The high-powered committee also directed that if any inmate who is released under its recommendation threatens, induces any witness or any person acquainted with the facts of the case or to the victim of the case, he shall be taken into custody immediately.

The HPC further directed all the jail authorities for ensuring social distancing of all the prisoners/UTPs inside the jail and that transfer of prisoners from one prison to another for routine reasons must not be resorted to, except for decongestion purposes. It further directed the creation of quarantine rooms/facilities where any prisoner exhibiting any symptom of COVID-19 should be immediately shifted to, and thereafter prompt arrangements should be made for quickly shifting such sick prisoner to a nodal medical institution for further treatment.

Accordingly, District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) have been made aware that undertrial review committee should meet every week and take such decision in consultation with the concerned authority in view of the direction of apex court.

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