By Sandun A Jayasekera
Justice and Law Reforms Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva yesterday admitted that the government was aware of the congestion in almost all prisons posing a major threat by COVID 19 but said the prison authorities could not do much to mitigate the situation.
He told Daily Mirror that he was aware of the idea floated by certain sections of society to release prisoners and those in remand for minor offences or the failure to meet bail conditions.
“The problem is that neither the government nor the Justice Ministry had the legal authority to attend to these matters such as releasing the prisoners. It is up to the Magistrates and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address these problems. I believe the JSC would be able advice magistrates to relax bail conditions if and when necessary. However, this must happen completely on the discretion of the relevant Magistrate,” the minister said. “However, a Magistrate has the judicial power to release a suspect on personal bail and a cash bail determined by him on the financial capacity of the suspect. If done so, it will contribute to minimize over population in prisons.”
He said he expected the two committees appointed to probe last week’s Anuradhapura prison riots to submit their reports with recommendations to minimize such riots.
The problem is that neither the government nor the Justice Ministry had the legal authority to attend to these matters such as releasing the prisoners.