204 Prisoners Released From J&K Jails

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Jammu: As many as 204 prisoners, including 45 who were arrested under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), were released this month to decongest jails across Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

In addition, the Home department has also revoked the PSA of 41 prisoners who are held in different jails outside the Union Territory and ordered their release, the official said.

“A total of 204 prisoners have been released from various jails of the Union Territory between April 1 and 13. They include 45 prisoners arrested under the PSA, 78 undertrials through the undertrial review committee, nine undertrials falling under section 107, 109, 151 of the CrPC,” a senior government official said.

Among the 204, 16 prisoners were released on parole, he said.

On April 1, a three-member high powered committee headed by Executive Chairman J-K State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), Justice Rajesh Bindal along with Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra and DGP (Prisons), V K Singh as its members, passed directions for the release of jail inmates except those involved in militancy related cases to decongest the prisons in the Union Territory.

The committee was constituted by the Jammu and Kashmir government following an order by the Supreme Court on March 23, directing the states and the UTs to decongest jails to ensure social distancing among the prisoners, while observing that overcrowding of prisons is a matter of serious concern in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

The official said the highest number of 39 jail inmates were released from central Jail in Srinagar followed by 28 each from central jail in Kot Bhalwal and district jail in Rajouri, 24 from district jail in Anantnag, 19 from district jail in Udhampur, 18 from district jail in Jammu and 16 from district jail in Kupwara.

As many as 15 prisoners were released from sub-jail in Hiranagar, 10 from special jail (correction home) in Pulwama, two from district jail in Bhaderwah and one from district jail in Baramulla, he said.

The official said the process for the release of 41 more prisoners from Kashmir, who are under detention in different jails outside Jammu and Kashmir since August last year, was also set into motion with the Home department revoking their PSA.

The Public Safety Act (PSA) is an administrative detention law that allows detention of any individual for up to two years without a trial or charge. The Act that allows for the arrest and detention of people without a warrant, specific charges, and often for an unspecified period of time has been in vogue in Kashmir since 1978.

The law was introduced by the then Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978 to book timber smugglers but later on it was rampantly used against political opponents and activists seeking Kashmir settlement. Amnesty International has termed it a “lawless law”.

The prisoners included 15 from Baramulla, eight from Pulwama, seven from Anantnag, three from Kupwara, two each from Ganderbal, Bandipora and Budgam and one each from Kulgam and Srinagar, the official said.

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