The Delhi Police has moved an application in the Supreme Court urging for the relaxation of the prohibition on handcuffing of prisoners during transit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The application states that there is a greater risk of viral transmission if the police officers hold the prisoners’ hands during these times.
If the prisoners are handcuffed, the police personnel escorting them can hold them from a distance, thereby ensuring safe distancing, and the plea states.
The affidavit filed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Third Battalion, Delhi Armed Police, and Delhi Police states:
- It is apprehended that the transit of under trial prisoners between jail and courts as also transit of accused persons by holding their hand moving in close proximity will expose both the prisoner as well as the police personnel accompanying them to COVID-19.
- In such case, it will be difficult to ensure social distancing, thereby increasing the possibility of infection. It will be unsafe to hold the prisoner/accused by hand in close proximity.
- Even if the police personnel wear gloves, it will not give them sufficient grip to hold the prisoner/accused. Even in that event, they have to move in close proximity and cannot ensure social distancing norms.
- If prisoners are handcuffed, the police personnel escorting them can hold them from a distance, thereby ensuring safe distancing.
In view of these concerns, the Delhi Police has sought for their impleadment in the case concerning COVID-19 in prisons, which was taken up by the Supreme Court last year.
The apex court has been requested to allow the following prayer:
“… relaxation of directions issued by this Hon’ble Court prohibiting handcuffing of arrested persons and under trial prisoners till such time the Covid-19 pandemic subsides in order to ensure safe transit between jail/police station and courts while producing/escorting the under trial prisoner/arrested person before the Courts, Hospitals and other places during custody parole, investigation etc.”
The plea goes on to point out that there are thousands of Delhi Police personnel who are infected with the virus and are undergoing treatment. Therefore, the Court is urged to consider the matter by balancing the rights to life, safety and dignity of the police and the prisoners, as well as the need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
The applicant has also called for an early hearing in the matter, considering the sensitivity and urgency involved in the matter. The plea has been moved through Advocate BV Balram Das.