The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered for conditional release of 408 more prisoners involved in minor crimes, while so for 283 prisoners have been released under the IHC’s directions. The IHC converted appeals of 408 under-trial prisoners into bail petitions and issued notices to director general of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and the Inspector General of Islamabad police. The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minullah took up this case and directed of dozens more prisoners release in backdrop of coronavirus outbreak in the country. During course of hearing, justice Minullah directed for formulation of a committee which should be comprised on representation of IG police office, Chief Commissioner Islamabad office and DG ANF office. “The prisoners’ release should be made after satisfaction of the committee”, the CJ remarked. Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat assured the court that no prisoner held at Adiala Jail has been infected with the virus. However, Justice Minallah worried that the coronavirus outbreak had worsened in China after it spread among prisoners. Under the IHC guidelines, the capital administration has so for freed around 300 prisoners in last few days. The purpose of the move was to minimize the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. The city administration also submitted a compliance report to the court. As per the report, the administration did not examine the cases of people under judicial remand under the National Accountability Ordinance or other special laws such as the Control of Narcotics Substances, Anti-Terrorism Act or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. A couple of days ago Justice Minallah issued directives to this effect while taking up a petition based on a report by the court’s judicial branch on Islamabad-based under-trial prisoners. The report said that the number of people imprisoned in Central Prison Adiala, Rawalpindi, was 5,001, while its authorised occupancy is 2,174. There were 1,362 under-trial prisoners whose cases were pending before courts under the IHC’s jurisdiction and most of those incarcerated under-trial prisoners were alleged to have committed offences that fall within the ambit of the non-prohibitory clause. The court had observed that prisoners were vulnerable and exposed to suffer irreparably in the event of an outbreak. Overcrowded, with high turnover and intolerable living conditions, prisoners could potentially become epicentres for an outbreak of the virus. Soon after the court directives, the administration released 230 under-trial prisoners on bail on very next day (March 21). The IHC has also taken more measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. According to the court’s notifications, the court’s administration decided that the fewest possible staff would work in their respective courtrooms and in the IHC’s different branches, and in rotation. The administration has also asked all officers to drive their official vehicles themselves instead of having them driven by chauffeurs. Women working in the courts have been asked to stay home until the situation improved. A circular issued on these measures said they have been taken for “social distancing and while keeping in view the increasing number of Covid-19 patients and expected future increase.” The chief justice of the IHC notified a social distancing strategy for the sessions court on March 16 under which district and sessions judges were asked not to fix cases that are not urgent until April 5. They were also asked to nominate a judge to visit jail premises to consider bail applications for accused people and remands of under-trial prisoners. Civil cases will not be fixed and litigants will stay outside courtrooms until their case is called for hearing. Meanwhile, the Punjab health department has confirmed that a prisoner in Camp Jail Lahore has been tested positive with Coronavirus on Tuesday. This prisoner was returned from Italy last month and was arrested in a narcotics case, provincial health department said in a statement. The prisoner, who was shifted to jail in the first week of the month, had complained of fever on March 18th, jail authorities said. The prisoner has been shifted to hospital after being tested positive for the virus.