New Delhi: With the objective to decongest the state prisons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the Punjab government has on Thursday night decided to release around 6,000 prisoners from all the jails across the state. Also Read - Watch | Punjab & Nagpur Police Punish Curfew Violators By Making Them Do 'Uthak Baithak', Videos Goes Viral

The development comes after the Union Health Ministry stated that total positive cases have gone up to 694 in the country with death toll reaching 16. Also Read - Amid Lockdown, Punjab Govt Announces Rs 20 Crore For Free Food, Medicines to Poor People

Disclosing further details, Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that convicts will be released on parole for 6 weeks. He also added that the undertrial prisoners will be released on interim bail for the same period. Also Read - Coronavirus: After UP, Punjab Government Announces Relief of Rs 3000 For Construction Workers

He further added that there were around 24,000 prisoners lodged in 24 jails across the state against an authorised capacity of 23,488.

The move from the state government comes to protect the health of the prisoners and also to contain the transmission of COVID-19 by decongestion of prisons.

The minister added that the prisoners sentenced up to 7 years with maximum two undertrial cases (both on bail) and who have availed their last parole peacefully are to be considered for release on parole.

The minister, however, said that those convicted or charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the Explosives Act, acid attacks and foreign nationals shall not be considered for release.

Earlier in the day, the officials of the Union Health Ministry said that the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 16 in the country and 80 fresh cases were reported, taking the tally to 694.

However, the Union Health Ministry said that the rate of increase in the positive cases was ‘relatively stable’ in the country.