Rashid Paul

HC asks committee to present interim report by April 03

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Release of prisoners amid Covid-19 spread…

Srinagar: Amid reports of pathetic condition of thousands of Kashmiri prisoners languishing in jails in times of coronavirus pandemic the High Court today directed that an interim report of the committee constituted for consideration of the release of the prisoners be placed before it by 3rd of April.

“Let an interim report regarding the functioning of the (high powered) committee be placed before us by the Home Secretary, UT of Jammu and Kashmir before the next date of hearing. The report may be submitted by e-mail”, directed a bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sindhu Sharma through video conferencing.

A grievance was put up before the court by advocates Monika Kohli, and Faisal Qadri, about the pathetic plight of the residents of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh who are lodged in prisons across India.

“Advocates have expressed deep concern about the safety and well being of these prisoners with regard to care which is required for their protection from the COVID-19 infection”, observed the court.

It directed the Home Secretary of J&K “to ascertain and ensure well being of all such prisoners”.

The bench said that the court is conscious of the order dated 23rd March by the Supreme Court of India in Suo Moto Writ Petition titled CONTAGION OF COVID-19 VIRUS IN PRISONS regarding constitution of the High Powered Committee requiring the examination of the prisoners who are required to be released from prisons.

“The functioning of this Committee was required to be commenced on priority basis keeping in view the health and safety of the prisoners”, the bench said.

However the additional advocate general of J&K Amit Gupta was unable to inform the court about the proceedings of the committee.

“The High Powered Committee shall ensure that it strictly abides by the directives and mandate of the order of the Supreme Court of India and examines the cases of all prisoners which are to be considered as ordered”, directed the court.

More than 3,500 people from Kashmir mostly political prisoners were in prisons in different parts across India till 4th of December 2019, reveal official statistics. Prisoners in most of the states in India have been released by respective state governments amid the frightening times of the coronavirus disease.

The state lawyer told the court “an advisory has been issued by the DG, Prisons that full medical and health facilities have been ensured to the prisoners. It has been submitted that there is seclusion of the prisoners from exposure to the general public, and hence, from the infection.”

The High Court also directed the Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the Deputy Commissioner, Reasi to ensure that the 400 pilgrims stranded in the area are not asked to vacate their current lodgings.

Their needs be fully provided for till such time as the lockdown persists, directed the court.

It also directed “all notifications/directions issued by the Central Government and the Government of the UT of J&K to ensure that there is no dislodging of people from their habitations and also provisions or facilities, are strictly complied with”.

After hearing complaints that doctors and paramedics were being harassed by the people quarantined in hospitals for COVID 19 infections the bench directed “the Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education of both the Union Territories together with the IGP, Jammu, IGP, Kashmir and IGP, Ladakh to ensure that complete safety and security is provided to the personnel who are serving at all government facilities”.

If necessary, the present security should also be beefed up to ensure that no person is able to leave the medical facility till the period of quarantine/isolation is completed, it said.

“There can be no manner of doubt that the safety and security of all health providers which would include not only doctors but also the nurses, the paramedics, mess boys, safai karamcharies as well as administrative staff at all government facilities has to be strictly ensured”, said the court.

The bench reiterated its directions to the authorities to take strict action against those violating government orders in the spread of the COVID-19 infection and endanger lives.

It further directed the authorities “to ensure that keeping in view the movement restriction, the same is strictly enforced and that the accommodation, health, care and the needs of the migrant laborers, if not already provided for, are also addressed”.

The court passed a direction to the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi to look into the matter of the difficulties being faced by the Indian nationals in the USA and to ensure that their essential needs are provided for.

“We would expect that these issues would be addressed on priority by the Ministry of External Affairs and appropriate steps as are required to be taken in the prevailing situation at the earliest”, said the court.

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