The Punjab and Haryana high court has taken suo-motu cognizance of a report from one of its judges that 251 inmates of the Faridkot district jail had tested positive for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in a random screening in March 2016.
The Punjab government has been asked to submit a response by August 4. The inspecting judge, justice Lisa Gill, had written to the acting chief justice to examine whether the inmates could be screened at the time of admission. Asked to move the prisoners to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre under armed escort, the senior superintendent of police (SSP) concerned had said the number was too big. The state’s only ART facility is in Bathinda.
The jail medical officer raised the need for constant monitoring and proper treatment of the inmates. The judge’s report states that not only the timely treatment to the affected prisoners was in question but also the absence of testing for communicable diseases at the time of admission was serious.
The report also points to the smuggling of drugs into jails and finds surveillance cameras to be inferior and inadequate. “The observation home at Faridkot for juveniles in conflict with law also had inmates in the habit of drugs,” the report says.
The document stresses the need for prison reforms, especially compulsory screening of inmates at the time of admission while also protecting human rights.