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COVID-19: SC dismisses plea of Medha Patkar for interim release of prisoners charged under Special Acts

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The Supreme Court of India (File Photo/ANI)

New Delhi [India], September 22 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Bombay High Court order whereby all such convicted prisoners who are undergoing punishment under the Special Acts were refused to be released on interim bail in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde dismissed the plea and refused to pass any direction to the High Power Committee, constituted for the release of prisoners on emergency parole.
“We are of the opinion that when such factual consideration to achieve the object alone is necessary and the High Power Committee (HPC) is constituted for the very purpose, interference in a judicial proceeding of the present nature to alter the criteria would not arise unless it is shown to be so arbitrary that no reasonable person can accept. But in circumstances where there is any individual discrimination amongst the prisoners in the same category and similarly placed, it would be open for the competent Court to examine the same to the limited extent when the grievance is raised by the person who is denied the benefit if he/she is entitled to such benefit,” the top court stated in its order.
“With the aforestated observations, the above petition stands dismissed,” it added.
The court’s order came while hearing a plea filed by social activist Medha Patkar, her organization National Alliance of People’s Movements, along with and social activist Meera Sadanand Kamath for interim release of prisoners charged under Special Acts amid COVID-19.
They had challenged the August 5 judgment of the Bombay High Court which had upheld the High Powered Committee’s recommendations to not release on emergency parole prisoners convicted for offenses punishable with less than seven years under Special Acts such as the NDPS Act, UAPA, MCOCA, etc.
The petition stated that the top court on March 23 ordered that all States should constitute a High-Powered Committee for the release of prisoners on interim bail or emergency parole due to COVID-19.
The Maharashtra State High Powered Committee (HPC) was constituted and it had directed that all persons who are accused or convicted of offenses punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or less shall be released on interim bail or emergency parole, however, the Committee held that these directions would not apply to the prisoners who are accused of offenses under the Special Acts or of serious economic offenses.
Thereby, the Committee exclude prisoners charged under Special Acts from being considered for such interim release, and Patkar had challenged this decision before the Bombay High Court, which rejected the petition.
Approaching the Apex court, the plea said that emergency parole was denied on the ground that these Special Acts provide for additional restrictions on grant of bail in addition to those under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The benefit of emergency parole was denied to the prisoners convicted for serious economic offenses, bank scams, or offenses under the special Acts like MCOC, PMLA, MPID, NDPS, UAPA, etc., it added.
The plea sought a direction that the case of 17, 642 undertrial prisoners lodged in jails of Maharashtra for temporary release on interim bail, pending the final hearing in the matter, be considered. (ANI)

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