In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court ordered inmates released on temporary bail or parole to return to Kerala jails within two weeks. Near normalcy has returned to the country, said a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and P S Narasimha.
“Near normalcy has returned in the country and daily activities remain unabated. The benefit that was granted to the petitioners who continue on parole, due to a possibility of contracting COVID-19, shall continue for period of two weeks from today. The petitioners are directed to report back to the prisons within the same period,” the bench said.
The court ruled that there is no right to be on parole indefinitely and that it must come to an end at some point. “It’s not that you can stay out of jail for the next five years,” it said.
In 2021, the Kerala government explored extending bail to persons who had been convicted for more than 10 years, based on the current scenario in Kerala about COVID-19. In February, the Supreme Court requested that the state counsel warn authorities not to use coercive measures against those on bond or parole.
It was hearing a slew of appeals against the state’s decision for inmates to surrender to jails.Dolphy, one of the petitioners who was released on parole from prison, has hurried to the Supreme Court after being ordered to return to prison despite the state’s bad epidemic situation.
In the aftermath of Covid 19, the Supreme Court ordered de-congestion of jails and urged the states and union territories to form a “high-powered committee” to determine whether criminals can be freed on parole or temporary bail.
The Government of Kerala, through decision dated 06.08.2021, extended the parole date until 23.08.2021, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s order. The parole date was again extended to 15.09.2021, after consideration of representations for a further delay.
Even though the COVID-19 situation in Kerala had not improved, it appears that the jail authorities were informally requesting that the inmates released on parole surrender in September 2021.
Later, in light of the realities of the situation, Jusice Rao requested that the State Government prepare for the possibility that most of the inmates might report on the last day of the two-week period allotted to them.