The Supreme Court ordered on Tuesday the arrest of all the undertrial prisoners who were released on the orders of different high courts and district courts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The top court overturned the judgement of the lower courts and declared the verdict on their release to be null and void.
The bail granted to people involved in corruption and drugs cases should be cancelled, the court said.
The court, however, approved the suggestions of the attorney general and streamlined the process of the release.
The verdict says that the prisoners who are sick or have any disability can be released if they were sentenced to jail for three years or less.
Prisoners who have completed their sentences but failed to pay the fine can be released too, along with women and children who have completed 75% of their sentence, the court added.
The people accused of violence against women and children won’t be released, it added.
On March 30, the Supreme Court put on hold the release of prisoners after it suspended the orders given by different courts across the country. The courts allowed the release to ensure the safety of prisoners and stop the spread of coronavirus in Pakistani jails.
The Islamabad High Court’s decision on the release of prisoners was not according to the law, said the top judge, adding that the Sindh High Court passed a similar order.
A five-member bench had been hearing the case challenging the release of undertrial prisoners.
On Monday, Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said undertrial prisoners should be released as it would create a crisis if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The prisoners already have hepatitis, AIDS and other diseases, they are extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus,” she said while speaking to the media outside the Supreme Court.
There is overcrowding in our jails because of a large number of undertrial prisoners. No judgment has been given in the cases against them so we don’t know if they are guilty or not, she remarked. “Still, they are being kept in the same prisons as convicted people.”