New Delhi, March 23: The Supreme Court on Monday asked all state governments to release undertrial prisoners, who are facing charges attracting less than seven years imprisonment, to reduce overcrowding of jails amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde directed all state governments to constitute a high power committee comprising of Law Secretary and the Chairman of the State Legal Service Authority to determine which class of convicts or undertrials can be released on parole or interim bail.

The apex court was hearing a suo moto PIL regarding the overcrowding in jails amid the ongoing coronavirus fears and observed that states have expressed willingness to deal with the situation.

The top court said that each of the states has filed their responses on the matter, which was examined by the Amicus Curiae and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and expressed their willingness to deal with the overcrowding of jails.

Mehta said that medical officers are instructed to immediately report any sick undertrial prisoners inside the jail to authorities and added that inmates are permitted to talk to their family members through telephone.

"An adequate number of jail hospitals are available inside the jails. In the evening in the jail compound, yoga, and other activities were done," Mehta said, to which the CJI Bobde said that "Yoga should not stop". This comes as at least 415 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and lockdowns have been imposed in several cities across the country.