ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Saturday expressed its ‘dismay’ and ‘concern’ over the filing of a petition at the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order to release 408 prisoners owing to the coronavirus epidemic.
In a press release, the council said that it backed the timely decision by the high court to release 408 prisoners from Adiala jail convicted for minor offences in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The PBC said that it was concerned over the “prompt fixation for hearing [of the petition] before a larger bench of the Supreme Court on Monday, the 30th March 2020.”
The petitioner, a Raja Nadeem, had moved the apex court against the IHC’s decision to release the prisoners. The petitioner had contended that the IHC does not have any jurisdiction to exercise any suo moto powers hence the judgment dated March 20, 2020, was illegal and is liable to be set aside on this ground alone.
The council said that Pakistan needed “concerted efforts and practical contributions on war footing basis by all concerned, within sphere of their activities, including our courts, to combat the deadly disease”. The PBC further said that Pakistan was one of the few countries in the world which had a large number of undertrial prisoners which led to overcrowding in prisons.
Inmates in the United States and other developed countries of the world have tested positive for the coronavirus. Those who were convicted for petty crimes have been released by authorities for humanitarian reasons.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that authorities will release ‘vulnerable’ prisoners in jails. Prison reform advocates say those in jail are at higher risk of catching and passing on Covid-19.
A few days earlier, Los Angeles and Cleveland released hundreds of prisoners over fears that the infection will spread across jails.
Australian Attorney-General Mark Speakman had said last week that several prisoners could be released owing to the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
He had said that emergency powers could be granted to the corrections minister authority, who will release or parole inmates on a case-to-case basis.
Every Australian state and territory has already banned face-to-face jail visits in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus.