The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to follow the guidelines of ICMR and other agencies to contain the spread of COVID-19 in jails across the state and to ensure safety of all inmates currently lodged there.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta directed the government to conduct immediate test of any inmate who showed symptoms for COVID-19.The bench also directed the state to conduct random testing and screening of inmates for coronavirus.
The court asked the state to upload on the latter’s website regular updates on the number of inmates who test positive for coronavirus, details of its quarantine centres, COVID care centres and temporary prisons that it has requisitioned for inmates.It also asked the state to decongest jail to ensure social distancing.
The court’s judgement came on a bunch of Public Interest Litigations filed by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and other individual petitioners.
The pleas, filed through senior counsel Mihir Desai and some others, sought that the state be directed to ensure safety of all prisoners currently lodged in the Arthur Road Jail, and also prisons across Maharashtra, in the wake of news that several inmates and jail staff had tested positive for coronavirus.
Last month, during a previous hearing, the state government submitted that it was unable to conduct adequate testing and ensure quarantining and social distancing in prisons due to overcrowding.
It had told the high court that it made applications for releasing 14,400 inmates currently lodged in various prisons across Maharashtra to free up prison space and follow social distancing to check the spread of COVID-19.
The court then remarked that the state’s submissions presented a “very sorry state of affairs” in the prisons.
Following the court’s observation, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni last week submitted a list of draft guidelines that the state proposed to implement for prison inmates.