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March 30, 2020

Summary moved to CM for action to prevent COVID-19 spread in jails

Karachi

March 30, 2020

A summary has been moved to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah by the provincial chief of prisons about the looming threat of coronavirus spread in already overcrowded prisons of the province.

The inspector general of prisons has written a letter to the home department, which has moved a summary to the CM Office for necessary action in this regard.

The correspondence reads, “The Inspector General of Prisons Sindh has forwarded a letter dated March-26, 2020, wherein it is stated that in the wake of prevalent coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic, the prisons alongwith the inmates and staff are at potential risk of catching the notorious infection.

"Currently about 16,024 prisoners are confined in various prisons of Sindh Province against the authorized capacity of 13,538 inmates. The said overcrowding at the prisons poses an imminent threat and may lead to the spread of the infection inside the prisons. In this regard, the Inspector General of Prisons Sindh has requested that Provincial Government may exercise powers conferred under section 401 of Criminal Procedure Code 1898 read with section 402, 402-A, 402B, 402 C and 402-D) respectfully in order to protect the lives of prisoners."

The letter mentions relevant provisions of the law. Section 401 on powers to suspend or remit sentences says: "(I) When any person has been sentenced to punishment of an offence, the provincial government at any time without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced accept, suspend the execution of this sentence or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced.

"Whenever an application is made to the Provincial Government for the suspension or remission of a sentence, the Provincial Government may require the presiding Judge of the Court before or by which the conviction was had or confirmed to state his opinion as to whether the application should be granted or refused, together with his reasons for such opinion and also to forwarded with the statement of such opinion a credited copy or the record of the trial or of such record thereof as exits."

Section 402 of the CrPC says: "Remission or commutation of certain sentences not to be without consent: Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 40I. Section 402. Section 402-A or Section 402 B, the Provincial Government, the Federal Government or the President shall not, without the consent of the victim or as the case may be of his heirs suspend remit or commute any sentence passed under any of the Section of the Pakistan Penal Code."

The letter further says that considering the overcrowding situation in the prisons, there is a looming threat of coronavirus spread amongst the inmates and staff.

It points out that the Government of Sindh has already taken substantive steps to control and limit the spread of the disease and the Sindh High Court has ordered the release of a number of inmates on bail.

"Therefore, similar additional steps from government may be directed at prisons to mitigate the COVID-19, associated crisis that will create a sense of inclusiveness and goodwill amongst the prisoners and will also ensure the preservation of the precious lives.

"In view of the above, it is proposed that under Section 401 (I) CrPC, the provincial government may suspend the execution of the sentence of convicts in prisons of Sindh, subject to the condition as at Section 402-C CrPC, ATC, 9 C of Narcotics Act for a period of four months with review of COVID-19 situation in three months. To be released after execution of surety bond, to be released on under Parole, to report back to jail on completion of suspended period of sentence.

"Any further condition which Director (R&P) Sindh, IG Prisons and home department may deem fit for ensuring, their return on completion of their suspended sentence. If any convicts fails to return on expiry of prescribed term, he or she shall deemed to be an absconder and the concerned Superintendent of Prison shall initiate legal proceedings against the him or her.

"The honorable CM Sindh may accord the approval for placing the matter on board before the Cabinet for consideration and decision on the proposal”. Officials said that a meeting on the above matter and summary shall take place on Monday under the chair of CM Sindh which shall discuss the issue."