SC recalls bails granted to UTPs by HCs

-Orders setting up Quarantine Centers at Torkham, Chaman, Taftan borders

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside Islamabad High Court (IHC) and Sindh High Court (SHC) orders pertaining to the release of prisoners.
“In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we consider it expedient to convert this petition into one under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution and in exercise of powers vesting in the Court under Article 187 thereof set aside the impugned directions issued by the Islamabad High Court as well as High Court of Sindh; bails granted to the accused/convicts, thereunder, are re-called,” read the apex court order.
A five-judge larger bench – headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed – however, accepted Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan’s recommendations regarding the

release of prisoners. The AGP had proposed to the apex court to release the under trial prisoners (UTPs) accused of minor crimes, in the wake of the novel coronavirus. The attorney general submitted a written proposal to the SC, whose five-judge larger bench is hearing a petition filed against the March 20 order of the IHC release of UTP’s.
Punjab govt bans relief work by charity organisations
The AGP said the apex court has been directed to exercise its power under Articles 184(3) and 187 of the Constitution, in matters related to prisoners all across the country. The proposal said accused persons charged for offences under non-prohibitory clauses or under vagrancy law or offences carrying less than three years sentence may be considered for bail.
He added that it should not be considered in cases involving abuse or violent acts against children and women, but persons suffering from ailments or disability should be considered.
AGP Khan said bail should be considered in the case of UTPs who are 55-years-old or older, provided there is no history of past convictions, adding that it should also be extended to all women and juvenile UTPs.
US coronavirus deaths pass bleak 10,000 milestone
He further proposed that bail in these cases may be extended on personal bonds. “Some categories of convicted persons may be considered for release by the provincial governments under Section 401 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).”
AGP Khan further said that convicts who have completed their sentences but remain in jail due to non-payment of fine/monetary penalties and women/juvenile convicts who have served 75 per cent of their sentence and have no history of past convictions can be released.
In addition, convicts whose remaining term in jail is six months or less – provided that the offence was not abuse against women or children – and women/juveniles who are sentenced to a term of one year or less, may also be released on bail.
The Supreme of Pakistan on Tuesday ordered to set up proper quarantine centers at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders for coronavirus patients.
Hearing a case pertaining to the closure of OPDs and availability of facilities amid coronavirus pandemic, the apex court ordered the federal government to establish quarantine facilities at all three borders within one month.
“Proper quarantine centers of 1000-bed and isolation wards should be set up at Taftan, Torkham and Chaman borders,” said SC in its order. Each person should have a separate room, bathroom and good food,” it added.
The court also ordered better facilities to be set up at the Taftan border to screen patients and to keep them in isolation. The SC also asked to submit an implementation report in one month. The court then adjourned the hearing till next week.
The Supreme Court while recalling the bails granted to under-trial prisoners by the high courts of Sindh and Islamabad and ordered authorities to arrest all detainees who had been released due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, however, excluded: Prisoners suffering from a physical or mental illness, under-trial prisoners who are 55 or older, male under-trial prisoners who have not been convicted in the past, female and juvenile prisoners.
The prisoners included in the above categories had been spared on the counsel of the attorney general of Pakistan, who presented his recommendations in the court today, all of which were accepted. The AGP had also recommended the apex court to not extend bails to prisoners who had been accused in “cases involving abuse/violent acts against children and women”.
The Supreme Court passed the order during the hearing of a petition challenging the Islamabad High Court verdict, which was issued last month. The petition, which has been deemed maintainable under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, argued that the March 20 IHC order militated against the concept of trichotomy of powers since it was within the exclusive domain of the executive to frame any policy to deal with under-trial prisoners in a manner it deemed appropriate keeping in view the coronavirus emergency.
The petition had also questioned whether the inherent powers vested in the high court under Section 561-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were unfettered or whether they can only be exercised in situations where no express statutory provisions were available.
Glaring omissions and mistakes have crept into the March 20 IHC order violating the law, the Constitution and public policy, the appeal had contended. The top court, in its verdict issued today, also observed that high courts have not been bestowed with the power of taking a suo motu notice. The hearing of the case will continue, the top court’s order added.
High courts grant bail
Last month, the IHC had taken up a petition based on a report of the high court’s judicial branch on Islamabad-based under-trial prisoners and had ordered the release of detainees in Rawalpindi’s overcrowded Adiala jail who were nominated in minor crimes. The high court had also told capital police not to make arrests in petty matters. The order was passed in consideration of the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country.
The court had observed that the prisoners were vulnerable and exposed to suffer irreparably in case of an outbreak. Prisons, which were overcrowded, had high turnover and intolerable living conditions, could potentially become epicenters for outbreak of the deadly virus, it said.
The Sindh High Court had also issued a similar order last month following which district courts had released more than 800 prisoners nominated in cases of petty crimes.