The Court also asked the authorities to notify details of nearly 35 temporary jails it has formed across nearly 27 districts
The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed Maharashtra prison authorities to follow all guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to contain the spread of COVID-19in jails across the state and to ensure safety of all inmates currently lodged there.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions seeking medical safeguards for jail inmates after the state submitted a list of its draft guidelines on their safety and on implementing norms of the state and ICMR on COVID-19 testing, treatment, and other safeguards in prisons across Maharashtra.
The Court also asked the authorities to notify details of nearly 35 temporary jails it has formed across nearly 27 districts, which are also to be used as makeshift quarantine or Covid-19 care centers, on its website.
The bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta accepted the state government’s assurances. It, however, directed the government to conduct immediate tests of any inmate who showed symptoms for COVID-19. The pleas 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.
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.
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.