Many undertrials and prisoners who were granted parole during the COVID-19 outbreak have failed to return to their respective prisons. These inmates were freed during the pandemic for humanitarian reasons, so it is now a concern that they have vanished.
In Uttarakhand, at least 84 of the 198 prisoners released from state jails have yet to return.
A total of 198 prisoners were released on personal bonds for 30 days on the first day in various jails around the state following the SC order. The court then extended the period twice more, totaling 90 days. “After this, the prisoners were supposed to return on their own, but 84 have still not returned,” Ram said, adding that prisoners sentenced to less than seven years in jail were released to follow social distancing norms. Those convicted of heinous criminal and economic offences were not included.
More than 19 per cent of the prisoners released on interim bail or emergency parole from different jails in the national capital over the past two years are yet to return, according to data shared by authorities under the Right to Information Act. During the devastating coronavirus waves in 2020 and 2021, the three prisons in Delhi — Tihar, Rohini, and Mandoli — released inmates after a Supreme Court order as part of measures to decongest jails.
According to data shared by jail authorities, 5,525 prisoners were released on interim bail and emergency parole in the past two years, and 1,063 (19.23 per cent) of them are yet to return to serve their remaining sentences. A senior jail official of the Delhi Prisons Department said the Supreme Court had ordered that prisoners who were released during the second wave in 2021 would not be asked to surrender until further orders. The stay continues.
Maharashtra and Mumbai were among the most affected places during the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The police said that during the COVID outbreak, several convicts were allowed parole and were released from different prisons in Maharashtra. These convicts were to return back to jails upon the end of their paroles, but many of them failed to do so.
The Mumbai Police recently launched a special operation to track and nab the convicts who have jumped parole and failed to return to prison. 451 convicts who were among those released on emergency parole during the COVID outbreak have still not returned to jails despite the state government issuing an order last May.
The jail authorities have, in the last seven months, lodged 357 FIRs against such absconding convicts. During the pandemic, the state decided to release undertrials and those convicted in cases where the maximum punishment was 7 years or less to decongest the jails. Till March 2020, there were more than 35,000 inmates in Maharashtra’s prisons. After the prisoner release program was implemented, 14,780 inmates, including 4,237 convicts, walked out on interim bail or emergency parole. They were later asked to return to the barracks of the jail they were in. However, to date, 451 released convicts have not come back.
After the Maharashtra government revoked all restrictions imposed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, on May 1, the state home department issued an order regarding the temporary parole on May 4, directing all the convicted prisoners to return to jail. The home department also clearly directed the prison department to register cases under Section 224 (resisting lawful custody) of the Indian Penal Code against those who did not return. Following this order, the prison department started reviewing the parole status of all the prisoners who had availed of emergency parole. As many as 3,340 prisoners returned to jail within the stipulated time, and for those who failed to return, the police station concerned was informed.
As part of the special operation, the officials of the Mumbai Police were successful in tracing and nabbing 18 convicts who were released on parole during the COVID-19 outbreak and had failed to return. The police will continue the special operation. During the coronavirus outbreak, the government came up with a scheme for the prisoners who were allowed to receive special parole, including undertrials and those convicted in cases with less than seven years of imprisonment. However, the condition of the parole also included that the convicts who availed themselves of it would return to their respective prisons after the end of their parole. Several prisoners who had taken parole during COVID-19 had returned, whereas many had failed to do so.
So far, the prison department has registered 86 FIRs against such absconding criminals, and police are hunting them. 892 convicts released on parole during COVID didn’t return to jail yet. Mumbai As many as 892 prisoners who were convicted of various serious criminal offences and were allowed to go home on COVID emergency parole during the pandemic have not returned to the jails. This has prompted the state prison department to register fresh offences against these prisoners who have fallen off the police radar. So far, the prison department has registered 86 FIRs against such absconders, and police are hunting them. The prison department had released 4,241 convicts lodged across 46 prisons in the state COVID Emergency Parole Program during the initial phase of the pandemic. Of these, 892 prisoners failed to return to the jail despite sufficient time given to them to surrender.