With increasing number of jail inmates being diagnosed HIV-positive, the Bombay High Court has asked the state government if it was possible to allow conjugal visits, especially in cases where they are undergoing long sentences.
“Do a research on whether male inmates can be allowed to see wives inside [jails] if they are sentenced for a long term,” said Justice PB Majmudar, when it was brought to his notice that consensual or non-consensual intercourse has been taking place between inmates behind bars for a long time.
Advocate Anand Grover, who was appointed as amicus curie (friend of court), pointed out to the court: “Whether we like it or not, there is sex in jails.”
The sorry state of affairs in providing medical aid to HIV- positive inmates came under the HC scanner when it was hearing the bail plea of a convict seeking his release so that he could spend time with his family.
Although the convict passed away in March 2009, the HC has kept the matter pending.
Worried about unprotected sex in prisons, which could be a possible cause of the rise in HIV-positive cases, Justice Majmudar asked about the situation in jails in other countries.
Grover said use of condoms was widely promoted. But the judge said: “If you provide condoms in jail, it will only encourage their use.”
“There may be physical needs. See whether a separate place can be given to the husband and wife for a day or two. Otherwise you will be spending crores on HIV treatment for inmates,” said Justice Majmudar.
The division bench of Justice Majmudar and Justice RG Ketkar has asked public prosecutor Pandurang Pol to seek the state’s opinion on the issue.
The HC also asked the government to fill up all vacant posts in prison hospitals in the state by February 20.
A report was submitted in July 2008 by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pune, that there were 22 inmates who tested positive for HIV in Yerawada Central Prison.
The report pointed out that though a medical officer was appointed, the inmates were not given proper treatment as there was no expert doctor. Besides, the staff were not trained to treat HIV-positive patients, it said.
Taking note of the report, HC directed that laboratories be set up in at least four jails — Pune, Thane, Nashik and Nagpur — by January 20.
Pol said the prison hospital of Arthur Road jail has facilities to provide first-line treatment to HIV-positive inmates.