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‘Will you withdraw or should we dismiss’: SC refuses to entertain Prashant Bhushan’s PIL on ‘decongestion of jails’ over coronavirus pandemic

The court asked Bhushan to approach the jurisdictional HC and inform them of the situation of their state. Bhushan retorted back asking, "Who will pursue the case in the HCs?", to which the court replied, "There are many advocates who will be willing."

The apex court on Friday refused to entertain the petition filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan in connection with the decongestion of jails during the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Refusing to pass a general instruction in the matter, the court asked Bhushan to approach concerned High Courts for specific cases.

When Mr Bhushan asked the court to take suo moto cognisance of the matter, the Supreme Court responded, “Why don’t you understand our point of view on some occassion at least? You may withdraw the petition, we grant you liberty to approach the jurisdictional HC.”

Appearing for petitioners, advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that jails in the country are overcrowded, running the risk of being a hotspot of coronavirus. He insisted the court intervene and issue a general instruction for the states to release minor offenders who are still languishing in the jail as coronavirus sweeps through the country.

However, the Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Bobde sternly denied interceding, claiming that the coronavirus situation in different states varied greatly and broad instructions cannot be issued in the case.

However, Bhushan relentlessly continued insisting the court to take cognisance of the matter and issue general directions to the states to comply with the instructions.

“Yes, it is not the same. At this stage, you may ask states to inform what is happening in their state. How many have been released, how many haven’t, & why so. How many undertrials who are in jail for minor offences (under 7 years), how many above 60 released ?” Bhushan asked.

“Will you withdraw or should we dismiss”?

However, the top court remained firm in its denial to consider advocate Bhushan’s plea. The court asked Bhushan to approach the jurisdictional HC and inform them of the situation of their state. Bhushan retorted back asking, “Who will pursue the case in the HCs?”, to which the court replied, “There are many advocates who will be willing.”

Slamming Bhushan for his repeated insistence to the court to hear his plea, the CJI said, “Will you withdraw or should we dismiss? We would like the advantage of hearing from you after hearing the view of the HC. We are not asking you, specifically, to go to HCs.”

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