Referring to media reports, the plea said COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last five days in Tihar Jail.
“It has been reported that 59 prisoners and 7 jail staff were infected as on April 12 in three jails in Tihar, which figures have increased to 117 prisoners and 14 jail staff as on April 17. It has been further reported that the increase in infection cases is attributed to the fact that the number of actual prisoners are more than double the capacity,” it said.
Petitioner R K Gossain, an advocate, said in the plea that following social distancing norms is the most crucial factor but jails in Delhi are already overcrowded and social distancing is near to impossible.
“The prisoners in Delhi jails are more vulnerable to catch COVID-19 infection and one of the effective ways for controlling the spread of coronavirus infection in Delhi prisons is to decongest them by releasing the prisoners on interim bail,” said the plea, filed through advocates Lalit Valecha and Sadaf Iliyas Khan.
It referred to the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court’s earlier orders when prisoners were released on interim bails to decongest jails to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It also said the apex court on March 1, had directed 2,318 and 365 prisoners, who were granted interim bails by the trial courts and the high court respectively, to surrender within 15 days in view of the improving situation at that point of time.
The plea sought direction to the Director-General of Prisons to file a detailed affidavit apprising this court regarding the exact number of COVID-19 cases in the three jails in Delhi as of date.
It further sought to frame guidelines for the release of prisoners on interim bail or special parole in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the three prisons here.
“Direct the Delhi government to file an affidavit to the effect that adequate RT-PCR testing infrastructure is available for conducting the test and that no citizen is being denied RT-PCR test in all government and private recognised laboratories,” it said.