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Orissa HC directs the district courts to consider prisoners’ release on PR bond for decongestion of jails

One of the suggestions made by the experts for reducing the overcrowding in jails is that UTPs arrested for offences where the maximum sentence is 7 years or less, should be forthwith released on PR Bond, when unable to fulfill the monetary or ‘property’ bail condition, the HC bench observed.

SNS | Bhubaneshwar |

Amid reports of many prisoners unable to be released on bail on account of their inability to furnish surety, the Orissa High Court has directed the district courts to consider their release on personal recognizance (PR) bond for decongestion of overcrowded jails in Odisha.

“A direction is issued to the District Courts that where it is found that a prisoner is unable to emerge from jail, despite being granted bail, for want of sureties to consider release on PR bond”, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Judge A.K. Mohapatra, hearing a petition on the living conditions of jail inmates, ruled recently.

A direction is further issued that consistent with the observations of the Supreme Court in numerous judgments including the recent orders emphasizing that bail is the rule and jail is an exception, the District Courts should take up in all seriousness applications for bail and anticipatory bail particularly in magistrate triable offences, it stated.

One of the suggestions made by the experts for reducing the overcrowding in jails is that UTPs arrested for offences where the maximum sentence is 7 years or less, should be forthwith released on PR Bond, when unable to fulfill the monetary or ‘property’ bail condition, the HC bench observed.

Judicial notice is taken of the fact that a large number of such applications are filed in the High Court even in magistrate courts in triable offences.

Since, according to the counsel appearing in such matters, the subordinate Courts are reluctant to entertain such applications. The Odisha Judicial Academy (OJA) will hold orientation programmes for subordinate Court Judges specific to the issue of bail and anticipatory bails on a constant basis, the HC order noted.

As against the All-India average of 69%, the percentage of UTPs in Odisha Jails is 78%, 95% of the prisoners were semi-literate or illiterate.

Out of the 87 prisons in Odisha, 48 are overcrowded while 14 had occupancy up to 120%. Similarly 18 are overcrowded with excess of 121 and 150% of their capacities while 10 are between 150 and 200% and 4 jails’ occupancy is between 200 and 299%. The inmates’ occupancy in at least two jails prisons is more than 300%, according to the HC judgment records

The Court is informed that in the districts of Malkangiri and Jeypore, over 90% of the UTPs are in custody for grave offence i.e. in possession of commercial quantities of Ganja thus attracting the severe provisions of the NDPS Act.

Therefore, many of them may not qualify for release in terms of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the directions of the Supreme Court, the HC order concluded.