In view of the spike in Covid-19 cases in Punjab, the state government has decided to bring the number of prisoners to 50 percent of the authorised capacity in order to provide adequate space for keeping the prisoners under quarantine and ensuring social distancing.

In accordance with the decision, 3500 to 4000 prisoners would be released soon whereas earlier, 9500 were released.

Disclosing this on Tuesday, the jail minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that this exercise is being undertaken considering the relaxations in lockdown restrictions, increase in number of new inmates owing to spiralling of crime rate, regarding which the recommendations were made by the high powered committee on the orders of Supreme Court.

The minister said that the average admission in special jails is around 3000 per month, due to which the present population of jails stands at around 17500, which is approximately 73 per cent of total capacity. 449 prisoners and 77 prison officials have tested Covid positive till date. Most of the above cases have been detected in the last few weeks though two-levels of testing of all prisoners had started since mid-May.

The minister said since 80 per cent of total jail inmates are under-trials, the criteria for recommending the release of prisoners was of under-trials only, and mainly of those accused under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, with recovery upto intermediate quantity and not having more than three cases.

In addition to new criteria, interim-bail of all the prisoners presently out from jail on interim-bail may be extended further till the notification of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 is in force. The Committee has also recommended that cases of Covid-19 positive prisoners may be taken up on priority basis by concerned Judicial officers for interim-bail.