The Supreme Court today directed prisoners out on interim bail or parole in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to report back to jails in Kerala within two weeks.

A Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice P S Narasimha said that near normalcy has returned in the country after the pandemic situation.

Near normalcy has returned in the country and daily activities remain unabated. The benefit that was granted to the petitioners who continue on parole, due to a possibility of contracting COVID-19, shall continue for period of two weeks from today. The petitioners are directed to report back to the prisons within the same period, the Bench directed.

The Bench said there is no right to stay on parole forever and it has to stop somewhere. "It's not that you can stay out of jail for the next five years", it said.

Senior Counsel S. Nagamuthu for a petitioner sought initially sought an adjournment by two weeks stating that the cases of Covid-19 in the state are rising. However, the Court declined. "You have no right to remain outside", the Court said.

A plea was made on behalf of another petitioner that more time be granted to the prisoners to surrender so that crowding in the process can be avoided. However, the Bench said that the jail authorities will take care of the problem and that all prisoners will not be going back to the same prison.

In 2021, taking into account the prevalent situation in Kerala regarding COVID-19, the Kerala government had considered granting bail to even those who were convicted for a period of more than 10 years.

The Apex Court, in February, asked the state counsel to instruct authorities to not take coercive action against people who are out on bail and parole. It was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the state's order asking prisoners to surrender back to jails.

One of the petitioners, Dolphy, who was released from the prison on parole, has rushed to the Supreme Court after being asked to surrender back to jail despite the poor pandemic situation in the state.

Earlier, the Apex Court had ordered de-congestion of prisons in the wake of Covid 19 and had directed the states and union territories to constitute a 'high powered committee' to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or interim bail.

With PTI inputs