Maharashtra to release prisoners after 158 in Arthur Road Jail test positive

Published : May 14, 2020 19:10 IST

The Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Two months after first announcing the State’s decision to release prisoners from over-crowded jails, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has once again made the same announcement. The earlier announcement was made based on the fear of the coronavirus spreading in jails whereas this time around the virus has actually infected 158 inmates of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. The spread of the infection has necessitated the Prisons Department to decongest the prisons.

The State’s 60 prisons were built for a maximum capacity of 24,000 inmates. They now house more than 38,000. Of these, around 17,000 will be released on temporary bail. Prisoners who can expect release on temporary bail are 5,105 undertrials facing sentences of less than seven years; 9,520 undertrials with expected jail terms of more than seven years; and 3,017 prisoners who are already convicted and are nearing the completion of their time in jail.

However, there will be exceptions to the above cases. Anil Deshmukh clarified: “Those charged under MCOCA, TADA, POTA, UAPA, PMLA, NDPS, MPID, Explosive Substances Act will not be released. Also, prisoners arrested under the Anti-hijacking Act, POCSO, foreigners in prison, bank fraud, major financial scams will not get this benefit.”

The central prisons of Mumbai, Thane, Yerawada and Nashik and the district prisons of Byculla, Kalyan, Aurangabad and Nagpur will be under complete lockdown. “Neither will a new inmate be sent to these facilities, nor will anyone be sent out. Even staff will be kept 24×7 in shifts until the impact of the pandemic loses it rhythm,” Deshmukh said.

District Collectors have also been asked to find alternative spaces where inmates of district prisons can be shifted temporarily to lessen the risk of infection.

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