Ask doctors of civil hospitals to visit jails regularly, HC tells Maharashtra govt

Published on Jun 03, 2021 12:20 AM IST

The Bombay high court (HC) has asked the state to consider having doctors visiting jails regularly on a rotation basis to overcome the shortage of doctors

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HT Image
ByKAY Dodhiya, Mumbai

The Bombay high court (HC) has asked the state to consider having doctors visiting jails regularly on a rotation basis to overcome the shortage of doctors. The court has also asked the state to prioritise vaccination for those inmates above 45 years of age.

The HC enquired about the measures being taken to address the issue of first-time offenders who have resorted to crime as they have lost their jobs and have no other means of income. The HC, while appreciating the measures taken by the prison authorities to decongest jails, suggested that more temporary jails should be set up to avoid over-crowding.

The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing the suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) initiated after HT reported of increase in number of jail deaths due to Covid-19, was informed by advocate-general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state that before the high power committee (HPC) meeting of May 7 and 11, only 1,201 prisoners had been released, but after the new guidelines were issued a total of 2,449 prisoners had been released.

Kumbhaokini further stated that the number of Covid positive cases had also come down substantially from 311 to 114 in May and vaccination of inmates and jail staff had also been increased. He submitted that of the 33,832 prisoners 4,359 and 3,598 prison staff had been vaccinated.

Prof Vijay Raghavan of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who is assisting the court, stated that while there was a circular that required doctors from the nearest civil hospital to visit jails regularly, it was not being followed diligently. The court sought a copy of the circular to pass orders asking deans of civil hospitals to abide by it.

Kumbhakoni also informed the bench that in the period between April 4 to 30 around 17,725 FIR’s under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and 5,911 FIR’s under special laws had been registered across all districts in the state. The bench had sought the information to ascertain why the prison population across jails in the state had gone up.

The bench also sought to know from the government as to why there was no dedicated civil hospital in Navi Mumbai and prisoners from Navi Mumbai and Taloja jails had to be taken to Sir JJ Hospital. When informed that there were civic hospitals, but as the rules did not permit inmates to be taken there, the court observed, “Why not change colonial rules of jail manual wherein civic hospitals cannot treat and admit jail inmates.”

The court also asked the state to respond on the issue of first-time offenders who resorted to criminal activities as they had lost their jobs or their businesses had failed due to the lockdown and said that the state should approach the issue seriously.

After the state assured the bench of responding to its queries and suggestions within a week, the PIL was posted for hearing next week.

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