The Bombay high court on Thursday expressed the need to conduct a systematic study to ascertain how many prisons Maharashtra will require in the future.
“A systematic study must be conducted to ascertain how many prisons are required in the state in the future, say after 15 years,” said the division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Amjad Sayed.
The bench said a committee of retired police officials who have contributed to prison reform must be appointed to carry out this task. They must consider the current prison population, whether crime has increased or decreased, and accordingly determine how many prisons are required in the future. The judges said the committee could also suggest changes to infrastructure in the state’s jails.
The bench was hearing two public interest litigations that raised concerns about poor infrastructure, sanitation and health facilities at major central prisons such as Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai and Yerwada Prison in Pune.
The bench has now directed the state to inform it if it was willing to constitute such a committee on its own.
During the course of hearing, assistant public prosecutor FR Shaikh informed the bench that the government had decided to increase the number of jails in the state. He added that officials are looking into places where the new jails can be constructed.
Acting on the PILs, the court had earlier directed the Pune district judge to inspect Yerwada Prison and submit a report. The district judge submitted a report stating that while the capacity of the prison is 2,323, it houses 3,792 inmates, of which 2,887 are undertrials.
The report added that more than 125 women prisoners and 16 of their children stayed in prison. Though there are 529 toilets in the men's barracks, there are no bathrooms. The and the male inmates have bath in the open. There are 19 toilets and two bathrooms in the women’s barracks. The report said these toilets were not maintained and were dirty.
The court has posted the PILs for further hearing on January 23.