Khudayar Mohla –
ISLAMABAD, (TLTP): While continuing restriction on high courts over releasing prisoners involved in petty crimes in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country’s overcrowded jails on Wednesday the top court directed to conduct COVID-19 screening of all new prisoners sent to jails nationwide.
Seeking report from Inspectors General Prisons of all over Pakistan regarding population of prisoners in their respective prisons the Supreme Court also issued directives to all the provincial governments to fill vacant slots of as many as 800 doctors amid establishing quarantine centers in jails of Sindh, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory immediately.
A five-member bench of the top court led by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said in order, “we direct that quarantine centres be made by the respective jail authorities, immediately, preferably today with all necessary infrastructure”.
Last week, high courts including Islamabad High Court, had ordered the release of over 500 under-trial prisoners and those already sentenced for their involvement in petty crimes, to reduce burden on the jails, however, the decision was challenged before the top court that conducted second hearing of the matter on Wednesday and sought report form concerned authorities.
During the course of hearing, amicus curiae in the matter Sheikh Zameer Hussain submitted, “some mechanism has to be evolved for release of prisoners from jails, who are in dire threat of being infected and a classification and distinction in this regard may be made, and such be laid down by this Court. He however, contended that the impugned order of the Islamabad High Court is without jurisdiction and illegal”.
However, top court said in its order, “So far as the question about the legality of the orders passed by the Islamabad High Court and the direction issued by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court and the subsequent orders passed by the District & Sessions Judges and Magistrates, is concerned, arguments on this aspect of the matter will be heard by this Court on the next date of hearing”.
Urging the court to pass appropriate order to devise some policy in the matter principal law officer of the Punjab apprised, “No prisoner has so far been released from the prisons in Punjab on account of COVID-19, rather the Inspector General, Prisons Punjab has made internal arrangements, where he has ensured that the policy of distancing, as announced by the Government, is followed and in this regard shifting of prisoners have been made and some have been put under quarantine, and that the accommodation of the prisoners in Punjab is not so alarming, where the arrangement for securing the health of prisoners could not be maintained”.
Advocate General Sindh submitted that Judicial Magistrates of the province have passed release orders of 519 prisoners submitting the order of the release was authorized by the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court, in his instructions. The bench said in its written order in response to the statement, “Advocate general Sindh is going to provide a complete list of all the 519 prisoners, their names, their prisons, whether they were under trial or convicted prisoners, detail of cases they were facing/faced before the Court(s), section(s) of law under which the offences for which they were being tried or convicted with short summary of facts of each case”.
The order further mentioned, “ The orders of the Magistrate with a list of prisons, the direction issued by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court and any other order passed by any of the District & Sessions Judge/Additional District & Sessions Judge may also be filed by the learned A.G”.
During the course of proceedings, the advocate general KP informed the court that no prisoner has been released on account of COVID-19 from prisons in KP whereas advocate general of Balochistan, IG Prisons Gilgit-Baltistan, accompanied with IG Police also gave the similar statement that no prisoner from prisons in GB has so far been released on account of COVID-19.
Calling attention of the lawyers the court said in its order, “In the meanwhile, we expect that the lawyers, who are interested in assisting this Court, besides the learned amicus curiae, may file their written synopsis and such be done well before the next date of hearing”.
Seeking comprehensive report from provincial, ICT administraiton, GB and federal government over measures the court asked to submit details of necessary training, equipping doctors and paramedic staff to cope with expected threats of COVID-19 in their respective territory.
“What steps have been taken up by these governments for providing necessary training and equipping the doctors and paramedic staff for dealing with this pandemic and also what measures so far have been adopted by these governments for providing medicines, protective dresses, kits, medical equipments, ventilators, hospital beds, etc., for treatment of the patients affected by this pandemic; what is the state of readiness of all the hospitals of these governments, to provide adequate treatment to the patients; what inventory/stock these governments are maintaining for the provision of medicines, protective dresses, kits, medical equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, etc., for meeting the looming surge of this pandemic; and whether continuous process of training of doctors and paramedical staff for dealing with this pandemic is being undertaken by the governments and if not, what measures they would adopt for doing it now”, the court concluded.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till April 06.
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