The Delhi High Court on Monday asked prison authorities whether they have sufficient number of isolation wards to accommodate all prisoners who would surrender if the bail extension orders issued by it are recalled.
The high court sought from the prison authorities the details regarding the number of COVID-19 cases in the three jails in the national capital, the number of prisoners who are out on bail and need to surrender in the next month and the number of isolation wards in each of the three jails.
The high court also expressed concern over "the surge in COVID-19 cases" in Delhi.
The order by a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh came while hearing an application seeking modification of the high court's July 13 and July 24 orders by which it had clarified that its orders extending interim bails/ paroles would be applicable to everyone granted the relief before or after March 16.
The application has alleged that the two orders were being misused by prisoners by seeking bail on grounds of family illness or some such other reasons, instead of seeking regular bail, and then getting the same extended on the basis of the high court's direction.
The high court said it will not permit misuse of its orders and it will recall its extension order if it was being misused.
The bench said, "If they (prisoners) are misusing it, we will stop it and then let them suffer."
It asked prison authorities information regarding the number of COVID-19 cases in the three jails, the number of prisoners out on bail and who need to surrender in the next month and the number of isolation wards in each of the jails.
The court also asked the prison authorities if they have sufficient number of isolation wards to accommodate the large number of prisoners who would surrender if the extension orders are recalled.
"There is a surge in cases (in Delhi). We are truly concerned," the bench said.
The high court also issued notice to the Director General (DG) Prisons, who is in charge of the all three jails -- Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli -- in the national capital and sought his stand before the next date of hearing on October 16.
The bench also sought the presence of DG Prisons, via video conference, on the next date, but it was told that he was suffering from COVID-19.
Thereafter, the court directed that he may appear if he was well or someone can represent him.
The Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra said he was appearing for DG Prisons and will take instructions on the queries raised by the bench.
The high court on August 24 had extended till October 31 all the interim orders which were to expire on or after August 31 in cases that are before it as also the district courts in view of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
It had also extended the relief in cases related to those who were enlarged on interim bail or parole and may carry the COVID-19 infection.
If those whose interim bail is ending are required to surrender to the already congested and over-crowded jails, which may not be in a position to strictly maintain physical distancing amongst inmates, it may pose the risk of unchecked spread of the virus, the court had said.
On March 25, the high court had extended till May 15 the interim orders in all matters pending before it and subordinate courts, in view of the coronavirus lockdown. Thereafter, the relief was extended from time to time.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)