KARACHI: On a Sindh High Court order, the district courts have released 829 prisoners involved in minor crimes from the detention facilities across Sindh over the last few days amid the provincial government’s decision to categorise all prisoners.
According to a statement issued by the SHC registrar on Thursday, considering the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), on the direction of SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh, 829 undertrial prisoners (UTPs) have been released from the prisons of the province by the district courts in the cases of lesser punishment.
The officials at the subordinate judiciary said that as per the instructions of the chief justice, the judicial magistrates visited the detention facilities and heard the applications of prisoners pertaining to guilty plea in minor cases, bail applications and reduction in sureties and issued their release orders by sentencing them for a period they have already undergone, granted bails and reduced the amount of sureties.
The SHC had already directed the provincial authorities for complete screening of inmates confined to all the detention facilities of the province in view of the coronavirus outbreak and to stop unnecessary entry of people on the jail premises.
CM releases Rs580m to provide rations to daily-wage earners
The SHC has also delisted all the cases except bail matters from March 24 till further orders to prevent the rapidly spreading Covid-19 while the civil work at the subordinate judiciary of the province has also been suspended since March 24 apart from urgent matters and bail applications.
Sindh govt decision to release prisoners
Presiding over a meeting with home department officials at the CM House, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the jails were already very crowded, therefore, he was trying to release those prisoners who could be given relief within the ambit of the law.
The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah and Inspector General, Prisons, Nusrat Mangan.
The chief minister directed the home department to work out details of the total prisoners so that they could be given relief keeping in view severity of their crime, health and financial conditions.
He said that the list available with him showed that there were 16,000 prisoners in all the jails of the province. “I want you to prepare lists of the jail inmates and divide them into different categories,” he said and added that there should be separate categories of undertrial and convicted prisoners.
Mr Shah told the home department officials that there should be a category of undertrial prisoners facing heinous and minor crime charges. A separate list of elderly and sick prisoners also be made so that their cases could be considered accordingly, he added.
The chief minister also asked the home department to furnish a separate list of the prisoners who have completed their punishments or jail term but have no money to pay the fine/penalty imposed on them.
Similarly, he asked them to prepare a list of the prisoners who have been granted bail but have no money or property to submit surety amounts. “The provincial government would pay their fine and make arrangement for their surety,” he said.
The chief minister also asked the home department to prepare separate lists of the women prisoners, children and foreigners so that they might also be given some relief keeping in view the severity of their crime.
Rs580m to provide ration to daily wagers
The chief minister released Rs580 million to provide ration to daily wagers and other needy people across the province.
Mr Shah decided to provide Rs20m to every district for distribution of ration among the poor, particularly those who earn their bread and butter on a daily basis.
He also decided to give financial assistance to daily wagers and poor people so that they could afford square meals and other minor unavoidable expenditures.
Mr Shah had earlier constituted a committee under Energy Minister Imtiaz Sheikh to prepare a mechanism to distribute ration and provide cash to the daily-wage earners.
The committee is scheduled to finalise its recommendation by Friday (today).
The welfare organisations are already working with the Sindh government to provide rations to the people in different areas.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020