The Haryana government has decided to release convicted prisoners with up to seven years of sentences and undertrials ones liable to get as long jail terms on conviction, on parole or bail, in order to decongest prisons, state Jail Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala said on Wednesday.

For the convicted prisoners to be released on parole, they have to have a track record of good behaviour in jail and should not be facing trial in other cases, said Chautala, adding the undertrial prisoners too should have displayed good behaviour, the minister added.

The decision was taken in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directive to decongest crowded prisons to stop them from becoming fertile grounds for the spread of coronavirus, he said.

The prisoners would be released subjected to the grant of the bail or parole for a period of 45 to 60 days by courts, he said. Prisoners already on parole or furlough will also get a four-week special parole, he said.

Similarly, prisoners who have returned to jail after only one parole or furlough on time and not violated any rule during such parole or furlough will also be given six- week special parole, the minister said.

As per a Haryana government statement here, Mr Chautala said that inmates who are over 65 years of age and are involved in more than one cases but are not convicted for cases of rape, POCSO Act, NDPS Act, or for acid attacks and enjoy good behaviour, will also be given six-week parole.

Foreign prisoners, however, are not included in this, he added.

He said that inmates whose sentence is not longer than seven years and no other case is pending in the court and who owe no penalty will also be given six to eight weeks of special parole based on their good behaviour.

Those convicted in cases like drug, rape, acid attack, however, will not get this benefit, he said.

The Supreme Court had on Monday directed all states and Union Territories to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing prisoners and undertrials on parole or interim bail for offences entailing up to seven-year jail term to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

The top court said overcrowding of prisons is a matter of serious concern, particularly in the present context of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The jail minister, as per the statement, further said the cases of prisoners, whose parole or furloughs cases are already pending with the district collector or divisional collector will be shown leniency and will be disposed of soon.

It will also be ensured that in such pending cases, a decision is taken within three to six days, he added.

He also said that inmates with good behaviour in the jail will be given special remission of sentences for two months by the prison director general and for one month by jail superintendent according to their merit as per the provision of the Punjab Jail Manual.

This remission will not be granted to prisoners who have been convicted in serious crimes, he added.

He said every possible step is being taken by the department in view of the coronavirus pandemic and it is being ensured that the health of the prisoners in jail is taken care of.

He said as per the directions of the Supreme Court, “major decisions have been taken on humanitarian grounds for prisoners and detainees so as to reduce the pressure of prisoners in jails.

Also, if any situation warrants that arrests are made by the administration as a precautionary law and order measure (those who may defy lockdown orders) then there is sufficient place for them in the jails”.