Prisoners’ release

Justice in times of corona

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Islamabad administration has released over 200 prisoners who were either under trial and were not yet convicted or were facing imprisonment for minor crimes. Earlier the Islamabad High Court had ordered the capital administration to release some 1,362 under-trial prisoners ensuring that their release in no way harms the public order and also that their cases shall continue to be heard in relevant courts. The court as well called for some surety deposit if it was thought necessary.  The IHC directed the police to not make any arrests in the near future to keep the jail as well as police station premises free of unnecessary burden.

The same is true of other prisons in the country. All of them are overcrowded. The state of hygiene and other facilities is abysmal. Health facilities are almost nonexistent. A small facility in every jail called ‘hospital’ does not justify the nomenclature and is mostly occupied by the influential inmates or those who line up the jail staff’s pockets.

In times when social distancing is being termed as the best way to stop the further spread of the virus, presence of people in such great numbers in enclosed spaces has the potential to infect more people. In such spaces it is more likely as people have are thought to have less immunity and low nutrition levels.

This decision by the IHC should be appreciated and other jails should also emulate the step. The Islamabad admin should move quickly to release the remaining people but not without exercising necessary caution.

Supreme Court realizing the gravity of situation and going against its previous decision to continue holding courts as usual has decided to operate with minimum staff and hold courts only for cases that are of urgent nature. Under the circumstances, this is the only way forward.